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Zimbabwe Arrests Journalist Who Worked For Daily Telegraph, VOA - 2002-03-28

Police in Zimbabwe have arrested a British-born journalist working for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and the Voice of America. Reporter Peta Thornycroft is being charged under Zimbabwe's restrictive new security law.

She was arrested in the town of Chimanimani, about 480 kilometers east of Harare.

Mrs. Thornycroft traveled to Chimanimani to investigate reports of increasing post-election violence in the area. Her newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, says she was arrested before she had done any reporting.

The Telegraph says she was detained for about five hours without being charged. The paper says she was then told she would be charged with incitement to public violence and with "publishing false statements likely to be prejudicial to state security."

The Daily Telegraph says she was then taken to police cells.

She could be sentenced to two years in prison if she is convicted under Zimbabwe's harsh new Public Order and Security Act. The law was passed in January amid widespread criticism from the international community. Human rights groups have called it repressive and draconian.

Mrs. Thornycroft has been the Zimbabwe correspondent for the Daily Telegraph since July of last year. She also reports on a freelance basis for several other news organizations, including the Voice of America.

The 57-year-old widow was born in Britain and is a Zimbabwean citizen. She also holds South African residency. She has two children and a grandchild.

Mrs. Thornycroft is an award-winning journalist who has been praised by her colleagues for her courage.

Daily Telegraph foreign editor Alec Russell issued a statement saying the charges against her are without foundation. Mr. Russell calls her arrest a cynical "act of repression by [President] Robert Mugabe's government against journalists."

Officials at police headquarters in Harare refused to comment on the arrest of Mrs. Thornycroft, instructing callers to phone back later.