Zimbabwe threatens to shut down newspapers over WikiLeaks
Papers like the Daily News that ran excerpts of US diplomatic cables leaked by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks could be shut down, Zimbabwe's information minister Webster Shamu said Tuesday.
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"We have opened up to the BBC, we have licensed newspapers, and some have closed on their own, something that we had warned them that we need to be vibrant based on the performance of the economy,” Shamu said. “We can not allow the denigration of the highest office in the land."Skip to next paragraph
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Newspapers face lawsuits
In addition to the threats of Shamu, some news organizations are facing the possibility of lawsuits for defamation.
Jonathan Moyo has already filed suit against the Harare-based Daily News for $100,000 over two articles published by the paper based on WikiLeaks reports.
The two stories reported in detail about cables in which Moyo allegedly advised the US government to send “positive signals” to the ZANU-PF in order to encourage ZANU-PF members to abandon Mugabe ahead of 2008 elections. According to the cables, Moyo told US Ambassador Christopher Dell that Mugabe feared being hung. Now Moyo says the articles about the WikiLeaks cables are "unlawful, scandalous, contrived, fabricated, false, absurd, and highly defamatory."
When the Wikileaks cables were first leaked, Zimbabwe's attorney general threatened to file charges against those of Mugabe's inner circle who met with the US Embassy. No such threats were heard today, when the US Amb. Charles Ray, the US envoy in Harare, confirmed on Facebook that he had met with Mugabe to wish him "a good trip to New York" for the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting.
"He (Mugabe) was mentally alert and engaging,” Ambassador Ray wrote in his Facebook feed. "Like I said, it was a pleasant chat. Nothing on wikileaks. No wikileaks, no rants.”
While Zimbabwe has opened up to independent media during the past two years of coalition government, the Zimbabwe information minister could signal a return to the dark days of pre-2009, where newspapers were shut down under the banner of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). Even now, many press organizations maintain their headquarters in neighboring or Western countries, edited and written by exiled Zimbabwean journalists.
The Zimbabwe government has had strained relations with foreign press and governments. It banned many foreign broadcasting stations from Zimbabwe, including the BBC , CNN, Sky News, CBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation , ABC, and Fox News but overturned the bar in 2009.
During the March 2008 elections, which many foreign election observers said were deeply flawed, Zimbabwean police arrested a number of foreign journalists, including the New York Times’ Barry Bearak, and the Times of London’s Jonathan Clayton.
-- The Monitor’s correspondent could not be named for security reasons.