Press Freedom Under Threat in Zimbabwe

A cartoon in The Standard, an independent weekly
in Zimbabwe has drawn a threatening note and a .303-caliber bullet. The paper
published a cartoon mocking the low pay of Zimbabwean soldiers.

A cartoon mocking the low pay of Zimbabwe military personnel drew a threatening note containing a .303-caliber cartridge. An envelope containing the note and bullet was delivered to The Standard, an independent weekly in Harare, according to the Washington Post.

The Post reports that Standard deputy editor Bill Saidi said the threat indicates the cartoon hit a nerve in someone high in the government. The military has enforced the unpopular policies of the Zimbabwe government and loss of support would endanger its ability to govern. The country is wracked by 1200% inflation, food and fuel shortages.

The Standard reported Sunday that a nephew of President Robert Mugabe delivered a warning to journalists meeting to form an independent media council. According to The Standard, “The voluntary council would supervise and maintain professional and ethical conduct among journalists in the face of government charges that the media is unprofessional.”

“The government introduced tough media laws five years ago imposing state permits on local reporters and barring foreign journalists from working permanently in the country,” according to The Standard. Self-regulation is becoming common across Africa as a way to ensure journalistic standards that protect journalists from state control.

In a separate incident The Standard reported on the arrest of eight church leaders at a worship service before a meeting to form an organization known as Christian Alliance. “Christian Alliance is a grouping of all church leaders in the country which has been advocating for non-violent advocacy work,” according to The Standard.

Shortly before Christmas, 2006, an ecumenical group of church leaders presented a detailed vision for Zimbabwe that calls for broad participation in the civil sector and for peaceful reform. Charges against the church leaders taken into custody at the Christian Alliance meeting were not made public.

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