- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

From combined dispatches
HARARE, Zimbabwe Police freed from jail yesterday a reporter for a British newspaper who had been detained for purportedly violating strict new media laws, but President Robert Mugabe warned that he will deal with anti-government protests with an iron fist.
Peta Thornycroft, 57, a correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph and two South African newspapers, left her police cell in the eastern provincial city of Mutare shortly after High Court Judge Mohammed Adam ordered her release, said her lawyer, Tapiwanashe Kujinga.
"Naturally, we are all very relieved," Mr. Kujinga said. "This has been an unnecessary ordeal."
In his ruling, Judge Adam said the accusations that Mrs. Thornycroft "is not entitled to work as a journalist are absolute nonsense."
Although the ruling released Mrs. Thornycroft from custody, she still faces the prospect of being charged for violating the media law. The ruling ensures that she will not be held while awaiting the state's decision on formally pressing charges.
Mrs. Thornycroft was arrested Wednesday in Chimanimani, about 290 miles southeast of the capital, Harare. She was investigating reports of violent reprisals by ruling-party militants against opposition supporters after the presidential elections last month.
Mr. Mugabe was declared the winner in a widely criticized election marred by political intimidation, violence and vote rigging.
Working as a journalist without state accreditation was made illegal under the sweeping Access to Information Act passed in February. Mrs. Thornycroft was denied accreditation before the law was passed.
No other journalist has been accused of violating the media act, which has been criticized as a government tool to muzzle the independent press.
In a clip broadcast by Zimbabwe state television, Mr. Mugabe told hundreds of guests at a victory party at his Zvimba rural home that he "will not brook any protests, any attempt to cause problems."
"This is a postelection period, and no nonsense will be tolerated. Those who want to rebel and to cause lawlessness will be beaten to the ground like they have never been beaten," he said.


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