Mugabe’s henchmen continue to threaten, intimidate and harass opposition media workers and the lawyers who seek to protect them. R
With opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai warning that Robert Mugabe will destroy a power-sharing agreement if he imposes a unity government and state owned media declaring MDC has joined Mugabe’s government, comes news that the intimidation of journalists and human rights lawyers continues unabated in Zimbabwe.R
International media watchdogs, the Committee to Protect Journalists, called on Zimbabwean authorities to stop harassing media and human rights lawyer Harrison Nkomo, who is awaiting word on whether he will face criminal charges after a client left Zimbabwe in the midst of a case. Nkomo was defending Phillip Taylor, a British national accused of illegally working as a journalist in Zimbabwe.R
“Zimbabwe’s security forces are using intimidation tactics against the press and those who defend the media,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “There is no reason for Nkomo to be charged. He should be allowed to continue his work without harassment or the threat of criminal charges.”R
Taylor was arrested in late October by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) while on a plane that was about to take off at Harare International Airport. Taylor was accused of working as a journalist in Zimbabwe without accreditation during a 30-day stay in the country. Taylor said he was in Zimbabwe as a visitor. Granted bail of 150,000 Zimbabwean dollars (about R80.00) Taylor was ordered to surrender his travel documents, but left the country a day before his scheduled court date.R
Nkomo informed the court that he had received a message that his client had left the country.R
Police officers from the Law and Order section, the department responsible for numerous detentions during the Zimbabwe’s election crisis, later visited Nkomo’s office in Harare searching for the lawyer, local journalists told CPJ. Police said they wanted to charge Nkomo with obstructing justice, Zimbabwe’s opposition weekly The Standard reported.R
In May, Nkomo became the first Human Rights lawyer to be arrested for so called opposition activities and authorities charged Nkomo with “undermining the authority or insulting the president.” Two days later, a judge ordered the lawyer’s release.R
Nkomo has defended numerous Zimbabwean journalists, including veteran reporter Frank Chikowore. On 15 April, police arrested Chikowore on charges of “inciting public violence” during a strike organized by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Chikowore was on the scene to cover the strike. Nkomo also represented New York Times journalists Barry Bearak who was jailed for covering the elections without government permission.
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