April 22, 2008

His Excellency President Robert G. Mugabe
Office of the President
Munhumutapa Building
Samora Machel Avenue, 3rd Street, Box 7700
Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe
Fax: +263 4 734 644

Augustine Chihuri, Commissioner-General of Police
Zimbabwe Republic Police
Police Headquarters, PO Box 8807
Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe
Fax: +263 4 253 212

Commissioner Faith Pansy Tlakula
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
48 Kairaba Avenue, P. O. Box 673
Banjul, The Gambia
Fax: +220 439076

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the wave of attacks against journalists in Zimbabwe since the March 29 elections, in particular the arrest and detention of journalist and writer Frank Chikowore.

According to our information, freelance journalist and Internet writer Frank Chikowore has been detained since April 15, 2008, when he reportedly went to cover a strike called by the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change demanding the release of the March 29 election results. He was brought home by the police, who searched his residence without a warrant and confiscated his equipment before taking him to an unknown location. Although the police initially denied holding him, Chikowore was later discovered at Harare Central Police Station. His lawyer filed an urgent High Court application to have the journalist taken to the hospital due to abdominal and chest pains on Apri1 17, but to date he has yet to receive the required treatment. On April 21, six days after his arrest, Chikowore was finally charged with “public violence,” in relation to the burning of a bus on the morning of April 15.  There are concerns that the current charges may have been fabricated. On April 22, Chikowore was remanded into custody, reportedly until May 5.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned about the arrest and continuing detention of Frank Chikowore and the number of other attacks against print journalists in Zimbabwe following the contested March 2008 elections. We believe that Chikowore is being held in apparent violation of his right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zimbabwe is party.  We therefore call on the Zimbabwean authorities either to substantiate the charges against Chikowore and allow him access to medical and legal assistance and bail provision or to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Dr. Simbi V. Mubako
Ambassador of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the United States
1608 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 332-7100
Fax: (202) 483-9326
E-mail: info@zimbabwe-embassy.us

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