Recent news out of Zimbabwe strikes a blow at the unity government’s attempts to foment legitimacy in the midst of its continued calls for international assistance. According to wire reports, an editor and journalist affiliated with one of the very few independent newspapers in Harare have been arrested for allegedly, “publishing articles that could hurt the credibility of law enforcement agencies.”
Independent journalism barely exists in Zimbabwe, and these arrests highlight the dangers facing those who still work to report news in a nuanced way in the country. Reformers within the Government of National Unity continue to push for international support, but such blatant violations of press freedom and civil liberties certainly undermine their case. Although details remain unclear at best, this incident is yet another example of the profound disregard for rule of law rampant throughout the country.
Around the world, donor states and international organizations are debating the best ways forward in Zimbabwe. There are some signs of re-engagement with Harare. The IMF has recently approved limited technical assistance to the government, and in Washington, congress recently held a hearing meant to highlight possible next steps in America’s relationship with the unity government. However, the world continues to look for hard evidence that democracy building extends beyond a rhetorical dedication, and politically-motivated detentions are no way to show the world you are on the path to democracy and transparency.
Photo of Zimbabwean police officers courtesy of AP.
Today, police in Zimbabwe arrested Alec Muchadehama, the noted human rights lawyer currently representing pro-democracy activists and MDC officials. Reports note that he was taken into custody while working at a courthouse in Harare. The reason for his arrest has not been provided.