Hard drives stolen from Zimbabwe independent daily

AP News
Posted: Apr 27, 2011 8:44 AM
Hard drives stolen from Zimbabwe independent daily

An independent daily newspaper critical of Zimbabwe's president said Wednesday thieves raided its offices and stole computer hard drives and the editor's laptop.

Raphael Khumalo, chief executive at NewsDay said components and hard drives from 11 reporters' computers were removed in the raid Monday night, along with the editor's laptop used to write a weekly column "critical of political injustices and social ills."

No other items were stolen. In large page headlines last week, the paper called on President Robert Mugabe, 87, to step down, declaring:"It's time to rest."

Khumalo stopped short of accusing security agents of carrying out the raid but said it aimed at crippling the paper's operations ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

He described the raid as "devastating."

"That again does not put Zimbabwe in a good light. It is going to be seen as a fight against the independence of the media," he said.

After draconian media laws were enforced in 2003, one independent daily was banned by the then ruling party of Mugabe. Its printing presses were also destroyed in a bombing using military-style explosives.

There have been no arrests in connection with that bombing.

Mugabe was forced to join a power sharing coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, after disputed, violent elections in 2008. The coalition deal swept aside curbs on independent media organizations and three independent daily newspapers, including NewsDay, have been licensed since then.

NewsDay appeared on the streets Wednesday.

"The thieves knew what they were doing and what they wanted," editor Brian Mangwende wrote in Wednesday's edition.

Mugabe's office said Wednesday the Zimbabwe leader is scheduled to return home Thursday from Singapore, his fifth trip there since December where he has received medical treatment. He is then scheduled to attend a summit of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

Mugabe has called for elections this year to bring an end to the coalition. Political violence has surged and in a security clampdown several gatherings on Tsvangirai's party have been banned.

Labor leaders said Wednesday they will appeal to the Harare High Court against the banning of two processions slated for May 1 to celebrate international Workers' Day.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, aligned to Tsvangirai's party, said police told the organization the processions "could be taken advantage of and create mayhem given the current political situation."

"It's a lame excuse. They always come up with a way to interfere with people's liberties," said Wellington Chibebe, the labor federation secretary-general.