Zimbabwe editor arrested for poll-rigging claim

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Geoffrey Nyarota, the editor of Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, was arrested and charged yesterday with "fabricating" a story that the government had rigged President Robert Mugabe's victory in the disputed presidential election last month.

The Daily News published an article last week accusing the registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede, of manipulating the results of the presidential election in favour of Mr Mugabe. Mr Mudede denied the charges, although last week he did issue amended final results that reduced Mr Mugabe's majority by 4,000 votes. This was not enough to change the result.

Mr Nyarota's lawyer, Lawrence Chibwe, said the editor had been arrested, charged and released three hours later. Police had not indicated when he would be brought to court.

Mr Nyarota was arrested under draconian new legislation that prescribes fines or jail sentences of up to two years for journalists who "fabricate" or "manufacture" news or "abuse journalistic privilege". The law, brought in by Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, bans foreign journalists from working in Zimbabwe, except with permission to cover specific events for short periods.

The law also envisages the establishment of a commission that will allow Zimbabwean journalists to practise only if they have been granted a renewable licence.

Mr Moyo wrote to Mr Nyarota two weeks ago, asking him to correct another "false" story reporting that a forum of parliamentarians from the European Union and developing countries had called for the presidential election to be re-run. Mr Nyarota refused. The forum later confirmed that the report was correct.