By: Angus Shaw, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Police arrested the Zimbabwe correspondent of the British Guardian newspaper under new media laws early Wednesday, the journalist’s family said.
Andrew Meldrum, a 51-year-old U.S. citizen, was taken for questioning from his Harare home. He is the seventh independent journalist to be arrested under sweeping access to information laws enforced since March 22.
The allegations against Meldrum were not immediately clear. Meldrum has been repeatedly named by the government in its attacks on British media coverage of the nation’s two-year political and economic crisis.
Meldrum’s newspaper condemned the arrest. “It is outrageous that he should be the subject of criminal charges for doing the job of a reporter and we call on the Zimbabwean government to release him immediately,” Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, said in a statement.
Meldrum’s arrest came the day after two journalists from Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper were arrested and charged with reporting false information in the story of an opposition supporter beheaded by governing party supporters.
Police and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change have said the attack did not happen. The Daily News printed an apology, saying its reporters may have been misled.
Reporters Lloyd Mudiwa and Collin Chiwanza were still being held Wednesday, said lawyer Lawrence Chibwe.
The four other journalists charged have been released to await court hearings. Among them is Peta Thornycroft, a correspondent for the British Daily Telegraph newspaper who was held in jail for five days.
Charges of abusing journalistic privilege by publishing false information carries a fine or up to two years in jail.
The media laws have been widely condemned as part of efforts to stifle criticism of the government of President Robert Mugabe, who has led the country since its independence from Britain in 1980. Mugabe was declared the winner in disputed presidential elections March 9-11 that the opposition has refused to recognize.
Independent human rights groups say at least 56 people, most of them opposition supporters, have died in political violence this year.
Several independent observer groups have said the elections were deeply flawed, citing political violence, repressive laws, and unfair voting conditions that swayed the poll in Mugabe’s favor.