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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 15:43 GMT
Freed Zimbabwe reporter 'unbroken'
Basildon Peta (right) and his lawyer, Tawanda Hondora
Peta (right) was held overnight in Harare central jail
Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta has said on his release from jail that the authorities have not succeeded in breaking his will.

I will continue as I have always done

Basildon Peta
Mr Peta, who is the local correspondent of the British newspaper, The Independent, spent the night in Harare central prison for allegedly breaching strict new security laws.

He said that even if the authorities don't resuscitate the case against him he expected more arrests of journalists in an attempt to break the media's morale.

He stressed that he would not be bowed by President Mugabe's administration.

"I will continue as I have always done," he told BBC radio.

Charges dropped

Mr Peta's detention came as British foreign secretary Jack Straw said four election observers from the European Union were already in Zimbabwe setting up a base from which to monitor next month's presidential elections.

President Robert Mugabe
It is a crime to criticise the president - even during campaigning

He said another 100 would join them shortly.

EU foreign ministers had formally warned Zimbabwe a week ago that their 15 nations would impose "targeted sanctions" on Mr Mugabe's regime unless it allowed their observers into the country.

On Monday, it announced that this threat would not be carried out for the moment because of assurances that observers would be allowed in.

The Zimbabwean Government has denied new laws were designed to stifle opposition in the run-up to the polls.

The Independent said he had faced charges of failing to notify authorities about a demonstration against a controversial new media bill, but these had been dropped, according to his lawyer, Tawanda Hondora.

Restrictive laws

Mr Peta, who is also the secretary general of the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists, is the first journalist to be detained under the Public Order and Security Act, just days after it came into effect.

If convicted, he could have been sentenced to two years in jail, the newspaper said.

The law makes it a crime to criticise or ridicule President Robert Mugabe and prescribes the death penalty for acts of "insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism".

The newspaper said Mr Peta had been regularly harassed by police over articles he wrote criticising the government.

It said before his arrest, police told Mr Peta they were acting on orders from the highest levels of government.

The newspaper said last year Mr Peta's name topped a security services hit list and that he and four other journalists were to be "killed or harmed" before the election.

He is Special Projects Editor of Harare's Financial Gazette and has frequently unearthed stories of government corruption.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is set to mount the strongest challenge to Mr Mugabe's leadership since he came to power in 1980, in elections on 9-10 March.

Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta
"The police just wanted to harass and humiliate me"
Dr Vincent Magombe of Africa Inform International
"Journalists are ready to defy the government in every possible way"
See also:

05 Feb 02 | Africa
Profile: Basildon Peta
04 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe evades EU sanctions
08 Jan 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's controversial bills
20 Dec 01 | Africa
Mugabe seeks media monopoly
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