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Human Rights Watch expressed its deep concern over the current crackdown on press freedom in Zimbabwe and appealed to the government to exercise restraint and abide by its commitments to democratic freedoms.

They were questioned in connection with an article about Zimbabwe's military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Published on October 30, the article told the story of a Zimbabwean family who had received only the head of their son, without the body, after he was killed in action in the DRC. Kwinjeh, the author of the story, received threatening telephone calls after the story was printed.

All four appeared in court on February 10. Charges were dropped on Gonçalves and Mungazi, but Kwinjeh and Mandaza where charged with violating Article 50 (2a) of the Law and Order Maintenance Act and released on US$135 bail. They are required to register with the police once a week. Their case will next be heard on March 1.

Human Rights Watch is worried that these new arrests may mark a crackdown on the independent media. Two other independent journalists, Mark Chavunduka and Roy Choto, were arrested in January 1999, detained incommunicado and tortured by military intelligence officials. A doctor's examination after their release on bail on January 21 confirmed their allegations of torture. Human Rights Watch wrote to President Mugabe on February 3 and urged him to order an independent inquiry into the reported use of torture on these two journalists.

"We wish to appeal to the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately put an end to the current clampdown on the private media," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director for Africa at Human Rights Watch. "Zimbabwe must recommit itself to press freedom and constitutional legality."

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