Zimbabwean Editor Wins Freedom Prize

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(AP) The editor of Zimbabwe’s beleaguered independent daily newspaper won the World Association of Newspapers annual press freedom prize Monday.

Geoff Nyarota was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom in recognition for his “outstanding service to the cause of press freedom in the face of constant persecution,” the association said.

Nyarota and his newspaper, The Daily News, have borne the brunt of a harsh crackdown on the independent media by the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Since the newspaper started in 1999, it had its printing plant destroyed in a mysterious explosion involving land mines that was never solved. Many of its reporters were beaten by ruling party militants and arrested by police.

Nyarota himself was charged last week with publishing false information, the 10th independent journalist arrested under harsh new media laws designed to quash criticism of the government.

“I receive this award today on behalf of the beleaguered and much terrorized journalists of Zimbabwe,” Nyarota said upon receiving the award. “It is my very sincere hope, nay, my fervent prayer, that in the not-too-distant future the people of Zimbabwe will collectively receive a major media award befitting of our once prosperous nation — genuine press.”

The presentation was made during the opening ceremonies of the four-day 55th World Newspaper Congress and 9th World Editors Forum, which drew 900 newspaper publishers, senior executives, and editors from 79 countries.

WAN, the global association of the newspaper industry, has awarded the Golden Pen annually since 1961.

Past winners include Argentina’s Jacobo Timerman (1980), Russia’s Sergei Grigoryants (1989), China’s Gao Yu (1995), and Vietnam’s Doan Viet Hoat (1998). Last year’s winners were San San Nweh and U Win Tin of Burma.

Nyarota, 50, also won UNESCO’s top press freedom prize in February for denouncing corruption and criminal activities by government leaders in the face of death threats, arrest, detention, and libel suits, the U.N. agency said.

The southern African nation of Zimbabwe has descended into its worst economic and political crisis ever. Inflation and unemployment have exploded and human rights groups and international monitors have accused Mugabe of cracking down on opponents and stealing the March presidential election.

The Paris-based WAN represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 71 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 100 countries, 14 news agencies, and nine regional and worldwide press groups.

On the Net: http://www.wan-press.org

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