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Cameraman Murdered in Media-Hostile Zimbabwe
Chikomba alleged to have sold images of police brutality to international press
Ambrose Musiyiwa (amusiyiwa)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-07 14:45 (KST)   
Edward Chikomba, a former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation cameraman, was found dead in Darwendale, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from his home in the Harare township of Glen View.

Chikomba was abducted at gunpoint on March 29 by men suspected of being members of Zimbabwe's secret police, the Central Intelligence Organization. His bruised and battered body was discovered two days later.

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Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena told the state-owned media that Chikomba appeared to have been assaulted and to have died as a result of the injuries.

Chikomba is alleged to have sold video footage which showed injuries sustained by opposition Movement for Democratic Change political party leaders and activists when they were beaten up by the police in March. The footage was broadcast widely outside Zimbabwe and prompted international condemnation of the violence with which the Zimbabwe government deals with dissent.

In an attempt to contain voices critical of President Robert Mugabe's hold on power, authorities in Zimbabwe have adopted an increasingly hostile attitude towards journalists and media organizations who cover stories that present the regime in a negative light.

In 1999, Zimbabwe Standard editor, Mark Chavhunduka, and journalist and author Ray Choto, were held for a week at an army base in Harare where they were beaten and tortured by Zimbabwe National Army military police for publishing a story which reported that sections of the army were plotting a coup to oust President Mugabe from power. The army ignored two High Court orders which called for the journalists' immediate release.

Chavhunduka and Choto are widely believed to be the first journalists to receive such ill-treatment at the hands of security agents in Zimbabwe.

The following year, a bomb destroyed an art gallery which operated next to the privately-owned Daily News editorial offices. The bomb came in the wake of criticism, by senior government officials, of the way the newspaper reported on the levels of political violence in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections.

In 2001, another bomb destroyed the papers' printing plant and two years later, the country's security agents shut the paper down in spite of a court order which said the Daily News should be allowed to continue operating.

Eugene Soros, writing for the World Press Review, documents the experiences of six journalists, some of whom were abducted, assaulted or expelled from Zimbabwe, in the years that followed, because the authorities in that country did not like what they were writing about the country and its leaders.

He reports that in 2001, BBC correspondent Joseph Winter was given two hours to leave Zimbabwe after having been accused of writing falsehoods. The BBC, along with a number of other international news organizations, was subsequently banned from working in Zimbabwe.

Following Chikomba's murder, Joe Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to Zimbabwe's commissioner of police, Augustine Chihuri, urging him to conduct "an impartial and through investigation" and to ensure that Chikomba's killers "are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Joe Simon also urged the Zimbabwe Commissioner of Police to ensure that "journalists are allowed to report the news without fear of undue arrest or detention" and to ensure that "police officers respect the right of journalists to report the news, as well as their due process rights enshrined in the Zimbabwe Constitution."

Reporters Without Borders, on the other hand, expressed doubts over the Zimbabwean police's willingness or ability to conduct a serious investigation into the circumstances surrounding Chikomba's abduction and murder.

"Only an independent third party is capable of establishing the facts in Zimbabwe today," the organization said.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ambrose Musiyiwa

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