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Zimbabwe Journalists Face Charges

August 17, 2001

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Four journalists from Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper faced new charges of subversion Thursday, a day after they were arrested on similar charges then released.

Police questioned the four over newspaper reports of alleged police complicity in the looting of white-owned homes.

New charges of subversion were being prepared against the journalists, police said.

The journalists were told they would be charged with publishing subversive material, said Geoff Nyarota, chief editor of The Daily News, who was arrested along with three of his staff members.

In an article published Tuesday, The Daily News reported that police vehicles were used by ruling party militants in ``well orchestrated acts of lawlessness″ on the farms.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena has insisted the vehicles were only used to recover stolen property.

On Wednesday, the four journalists _ Nyarota, deputy editor Bill Saidi, news editor John Gambanga and reporter Sam Munyavi _ were arrested under security laws that prohibit the publication of false information likely to discredit the police or military. But judicial officials freed the journalists, ruling that the security laws were outdated.

The report was about a week of violence in the Chinhoyi corn and tobacco district, 70 miles northwest of Harare, in which at least 30 homesteads were looted and white families evacuated from about 100 farms.

Since March 2000, ruling party militants led by veterans of the independence war that ended white rule in 1980 have occupied more than 1,700 farms.

The often-violent occupations, which are backed by the government of President Robert Mugabe, have been ruled illegal by Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court and criticized by many Western nations.

The arrests came amid a crackdown on the government’s critics. In recent months, three foreign journalists have been forced to leave the country, and independent Zimbabwean journalists have been threatened by ruling party militants.

Update hourly