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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
New charges for Harare journalists
Farm workers clear up after the looters
At least 30 farms have been looted over the last 10 days
Lawyers for four journalists from Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper say new charges have been filed against their clients after a court dropped an earlier case against them on Wednesday.

The lawyers said the journalists had now been charged with publishing subversive material.

A farmer's wife in Zimbabwe
A farmer's wife weeps on learning her husband must spend another night in jail
The journalists' paper, The Daily News, had carried a report alleging that police vehicles had been used in the looting of white-owned farms in north-western Zimbabwe over the past week.

Geoff Nyarota, the paper's editor in chief and three colleagues were briefly detained on Wednesday but were released after a high court declared that the law under which they were charged was out of date.

Their lawyers said they had now been charged under a different section of the Law and Order Maintenance Act, but had been promised that they would not be detained again.

Bail decision delay

Meanwhile a Zimbabwe high court judge has deferred until Friday a decision on whether to grant bail to 21 white Zimbabwean farmers being held in custody.

The farmers, who were charged with violence and assault after clashes with black squatters, have spent the past 10 days in prison.

Daily News editor Geoff Nyarota
Nyarota: Charged with subversion
High Court Judge Rita Makarau said she needed more time to assess submissions made by the farmers' lawyer.

The 21 farmers were arrested after trouble in Chinhoyi, 115km (70 miles) north-west of Harare.

They are accused of beating up government supporters who had invaded a farm belonging to a white farmer.

White farmers in the Chinhoyi area say violence by a group of up to 250 militants has now eased and the authorities say that large numbers of police have been deployed to restore calm.

Punishment

A BBC correspondent in the region says that the Zimbabwean Government has given every indication that it would like to see the farmers allegedly responsible vigorously punished.

They have been shown on local television in chains and police who allowed blankets and food to reach their cells have been disciplined.

But our correspondent says that the Zimbabwean judiciary has proven itself independent and fair, despite intense political pressure.

It refused to allow The Daily News chief editor Geoff Nyarota, assistant editor Bill Saidi, news editor John Gambanga and reporter Sam Munyavi, to be charged under anachronistic legislation.

They had been accused of publishing false news "likely to cause alarm and despondency".

As Zimbabwe's political and economic problems have deepened, the government has become increasingly hostile to the media in general, our correspondent says.

Farm attacks

At least 30 homesteads have been looted, and white families have been evacuated from about 100 farms in the Chinhoyi area over the last 10 days.

President Mugabe
President Mugabe is targeting the independent media and judiciary
The farmers deny starting clashes with black war veterans on 6 August, saying they were attacked when they went to help a neighbour threatened by the militants.

The front page of the Daily News on Tuesday had described the use of police vehicles as "well orchestrated acts of lawlessness" on the farms.

Before his detention, Mr Saidi said the story was based on eyewitness accounts by the white farmers. He said the police had refused the opportunity to comment on the report before they went to press.

The newspaper's owners have vowed to continue publishing.

The government views the Daily News, which has linked members of the government to corruption, as an opposition mouthpiece. The newspaper says it is independent.

The Daily News printing press was bombed in January and in April Mr Nyarota and two of his colleagues were charged with defaming President Robert Mugabe.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"Zimbabwe's unending agony affects both black and white"
John Gambanga, news editor of the Daily News
"The charges will not stand up in a court of law"
See also:

16 Aug 01 | Africa
Diplomatic options over Zimbabwe
15 Aug 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe frees four journalists
14 Aug 01 | Africa
Fleeing Zimbabwe violence
14 Aug 01 | Cricket
England tour in doubt
06 Aug 01 | Africa
Mbeki admits Zimbabwe failure
02 Aug 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe targets more white farms
13 Aug 01 | Africa
US attacks Zimbabwe 'abuses'
28 Jan 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe newspaper bombed
16 Aug 01 | Africa
Airlift plan for Zimbabwe Britons
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