The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe has condemned the Chinese embassy in Harare for threatening a weekly newspaper after it published articles on violations by Chinese mining companies.
The group says the embassy threatened to take unspecified "strong countermeasures" against The Standard newspaper, which the alliance called an attack on press freedom.
"Firstly, the Chinese embassy did not specify what counteractions they would take against the newspaper in question, and it is something of a concern — particularly coming from a global powerhouse in the mold of China," said Nigel Nyamutumbu, head of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe. "And this, in our view, such unspecified threats would amount to an attack on press freedom," he said.
Officials at the Chinese embassy on Wednesday said they would not comment on the statement by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe.
Nyamutumbu said, "The Chinese embassy did not also seek any redress with the professional mechanisms that exist, whether through the ombudsman of the Alpha Media Holdings, which houses the newspaper that they had issues with, or approaching the self-regulatory mechanism that is available to seek redress and to seek accountability, and to get areas they wanted threshed out to be handled.
"They could also have used the Zimbabwe Media Commission or the diplomatic channels so that their issues could have been handled amicably outside of issuing statements that have a chilling effect on press freedom," he added.
Zimbabwean officials could not be reached Wednesday for comments. In an interview, former Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Ashton Masunda, a member of the Alpha Media Holdings editorial advisory board, said journalists would not relent, despite the threats by the Chinese embassy.
"The allegation that really stung me into action was the allegation by the Chinese embassy that the Alpha Media Holdings journalists were paid by foreign-linked nongovernment organizations as well as an embassy," Masunda said. "Alpha Media Holdings is an independent media house, which is free from any political ties. It is an anathema for any Alpha Media Holdings journalists to receive any payment outside remuneration which he or she receives from [the] company."
Masunda added that his organization would continue to report accurately and fairly in Zimbabwe.