Journalist Forced to Flee Zimbabwe An independent journalist says that the situation in Zimbabwe has grown inhospitable to reporters. Police illegally searched her house, took all the equipment, and arrested her mother — also a journalist — without charging her, she says.
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Journalist Forced to Flee Zimbabwe

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Journalist Forced to Flee Zimbabwe

Journalist Forced to Flee Zimbabwe

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This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Madeleine Brand. And now to Africa and Zimbabwe. Last month's national elections are still undecided even though most observers say long time President Robert Mugabe should step down.

CHADWICK: Today, Human Rights Watch joined other groups accusing President Mugabe of a campaign of terror against his political opponents.

BRAND: I spoke earlier with a Zimbabwean journalist. She goes only by the name Lee - it's her middle name, to protect her identity. She recently fled to South Africa after police raided to her home. I asked her to give us an account of what happened.

Ms. LEE (Journalist, Zimbabwe): Police arrived at our residence just after five a.m. on Thursday, April 10th. There were around 40 of them. They cordoned off the entire block and most of them were armed with AK-47s. They were plainclothes members of the CIO or Central Intelligence Organization in Zimbabwe and there were also uniformed police and they were demanding to see any foreigners. They were checking for journalists.

They placed us, the locals, under house arrest for around three hours. Police, then, started illegally searching the house and they seized all of our equipment, including laptops, cameras, videotapes - tapes of people that had claimed they were brutalized by the ruling party's (unintelligible) and including the militia and police.

They then arrested my mother, who is also a journalist. She is a former TV and radio broadcaster, very famous in Zimbabwe. Her name is Margret Creel. She was placed in jail for four nights. She said she was never abused and was treated well by the prison staff, but she was interrogated without her lawyer numerous times and was never charged. We, then, went into hiding and eventually ended up in South Africa, where we are now. And we're basically waiting and hoping for something to happen so we can return to Zimbabwe and continue with our reporting, but right now, we are wanted.

BRAND: When you mean we, are you talking about you and your mother? Where is your mother now?

Ms. LEE: My mother's in Zimbabwe, but my photographer and I, we have been compromised, and our security has been compromised, but we look forward to returning if ever we're allowed back.

BRAND: You say 40 police surrounded your house? They eventually arrested your mother. We've heard another account of a New York Times being arrested and spending some ten days in custody. Why are the Zimbabwe police targeting journalists?

Ms. LEE: Madeleine, for 40 armed police with AK-47s, to arrest, perhaps at most, three journalists, the one thought that comes to mind is, what are these people so scared of? What are they so afraid that we are gong to tell the rest of the world?

BRAND: Now, speaking of telling about what's going on, Human Rights Watch has said today, that there are terrible atrocities happening. That the ruling party is actually arresting and in fact, allegedly killing, members of the opposition party. Have you witnessed that?

Ms. LEE: Madeleine, I have not witnessed anyone being killed, but I can tell you I have witnessed people who have been beaten, and I've witnessed their fear. They want to speak out and obviously tell the rest of the world what they're going through. I mean these people are like us, taken from our homes early in the morning, yet they don't have an international news organization to turn to. They'll just go missing.

They are absolutely terrified, and I've heard numerous accounts of people who have been killed. In fact, oftentimes I look back on the footage that I have taken, and I pray that the people who I have interviewed are still alive because they were brave enough to speak out. But those tapes that the police have, I don't know what they are going to do with them.

BRAND: Thank you Lee.

Ms. LEE: Thank you Madeleine.

BRAND: Lee is an independent Zimbabwe journalist. Lee is a pseudonym. She did not want to give her real name for fear of reprisal. She spoke to us from Johannesburg.

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