Zimbabwe editor faces arrest over election story

2010-11-05 10:54

Police in Zimbabwe had issued an arrest warrant for the editor of an independent weekly newspaper for publishing a story about the death of an election official two years ago, a national police spokesperson said today.

“A warrant of arrest has been issued against Wilf Mbanga as owner and editor of The Zimbabwean newspaper following the publication of a false story on December 11 2008,” said Andrew Phiri.

“We are making every effort to make sure he is brought to justice to answer allegations.”

The state-owned Herald newspaper said the warrant was in connection with a story published in The Zimbabwean about the alleged murder of Ignatius Mushangwe, the director of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Mushangwe went missing in June 2008 and his decomposed body was found later in a small town west of the capital.

“Mbanga alleged a source close to the president’s office had revealed minutes from a meeting in June 2008 whose agenda was to eliminate ZEC official Ignatius Mushangwe,” the paper quoted Phiri as saying.

“He indicated Mushangwe was to be eliminated for leaking the results of the March 29 2008 presidential elections. In reality, no such story took place and Mbanga’s story is frivolous, unfounded and misguided.”

The country’s controversial presidential vote was marred by deadly violence and resulted in President Robert Mugabe winning an uncontested run-off after his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out.

The media in Zimbabwe has been operating under stringent rules over the last decade, with several newspapers forced to shut down while journalists and foreign correspondents have been deported and harassed by the police.

Tsvangirai, now prime minister in a power-sharing government, has vowed to abolish the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which bans foreign journalists from working permanently in the country.

The 2002 act forced media organisations and journalists to register with a government body.

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