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Journalist flees Zimbabwe

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February 20, 2001 


HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) Fearful of violence against his wife and 2-year-old daughter, a British journalist threatened with deportation flew out of Zimbabwe on Monday.

Joseph Winter, a British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent, left the country after government agents broke into his Harare apartment early Sunday morning, claiming they intended only to serve him with a deportation order.

A second journalist ordered deported, Mercedes Sayagues, has moved from her Harare apartment to a friend's home with her 8-year-old daughter.

Winter and Sayagues, a correspondent for South Africa's weekly newspaper the Mail and Guardian, were ordered to leave the country within 24 hours Saturday. A High Court judge delayed their deportation until Friday to give them more time to make personal arrangements.

Winter and his family flew out of the country Monday.

The expulsions came amid growing threats against independent journalists in Zimbabwe.

Last month, a powerful explosion wrecked the printing presses of Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, The Daily News. The paper continued publishing without interruption. No one has been arrested in the bombing.

The blast came after Information Minister Jonathan Moyo described the paper as a threat to national security and ruling party militants set fire to copies in the streets.

Moyo has announced plans to cancel the accreditation of all local and foreign journalists and release new regulations covering media accreditation.

The government said Winter's work permit had not been correctly processed. Moyo told reporters the permit may have been forged by an official colluding with Winter, but Winter and the BBC said the permit was extended until next February after he submitted a routine application to Moyo's department.

Zimbabwe has been rocked by violence in the last year as ruling party militants occupied white-owned farms with President Robert Mugabe's consent.

Mugabe's supporters have threatened violence against those who oppose the government, including judges. The instability has crippled the economy, scared away foreign investors and drawn scathing criticism from the international community.

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