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Daily Archives: April 17, 2008

Zimbabwe court throws out case against US journalist, Briton

A Zimbabwean court acquitted yesterday a US journalist and a British national charged with reporting on March elections without accreditation, their lawyer said.
"The court found there was no reasonable ground that they committed a crime and that there was no legal basis for them to be re-detained," lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said.
The 45-year-old British national said "it's all over" to reporters as he walked free from the Harare court.
He and New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak, 58, were arrested at a Harare guest house on April 3 and spent four nights behind bars before being released on bail of 300 million Zimbabwe dollars.
The bail amount was equivalent to 10,000 US dollars according to the official exchange rate.
Bearak, who won a Pulitzer prize in 2002 for his reporting from Afghanistan, had been confined to a medical clinic after he slipped and injured his back in jail, while the Briton had been staying at the British embassy.
Zimbabwean authorities barred most foreign media from covering the March 29 elections and had warned they would deal severely with journalists who sneaked into the country.
However a number of news organisations, including the BBC, have been filing reports from correspondents operating under cover.
President Robert Mugabe's government passed a media law on the eve of the last presidential elections in 2002 which has been invoked to expel foreign correspondents and shut down at least four independent newspapers.

A year after tragedy, Virginia Tech looks back — and ahead

by Alice Ritchie*

As they struggle to overcome tragedy, the students and faculty at Virginia Tech are banding together to mark their campus's first anniversary of the worst school shooting in US history.
Heartache is sure to be felt as this tight-knit community in southwestern Virginia farm country remembers the 32 students and teachers shot dead here, but many also say they hoped yesterday's anniversary would lay much of the grieving to rest and help them move on with their lives.
"The one-year point marks the turning point," said Larry Hinckler, associate vice-president for university relations, making it clear that the campus aims to move on from the rampage that paralysed the school a year ago.
"We've worked to try to have an event that's respectful … to remember the lives that were lost."
Events begin with a morning commemoration on the campus's drillfield, followed by a softball game and later a candlelight vigil.
Earlier this week, Virginia Tech's 2,600-acre campus looked like many others, with students laughing together or chatting on mobile phones as they walk to and from classes.
But under the surface is a student body agonised over classmates and professors who were gunned down by mentally disturbed 23-year-old student Cho Seung-Hui.
"It's there all the time, but no one really talks about it," said freshman Joanna Martinez, 18.
"It's like the big elephant in the room," she said.
Martinez said she hoped the anniversary ceremonies would help.
Many residents here are loathe to let their campus of 29,000 students — who proudly call themselves "Hokie Nation" — slip into a symbol of national tragedy.
"We want to move on in a positive way … to try to support each other and also to look forward. We don't want to just be sad forever," Tommy McDearis, the senior pastor at Blacksburg Baptist Church, said.
Two of the shooting victims, Caitlin Hammaren and Austin Cloyd, had attended the church, and Cloyd's parents still live in Blacksburg.
"It's only been a year since they lost their daughter, its going to take years" to come to terms with what happened, McDearis said.
Yet McDearis reflected on a sentiment felt throughout the campus community — that life, despite its convulsions — carries on.
"Once this is past we have to move on — do the best we can to remember the lives we lost."
Hincker said security has been notably tightened in the past year. The university has also hired three new counsellors and a new case manager to ensure that troubled students — like Cho, who was briefly admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 2005 — do not fall between the cracks.
Most of Virginia Tech's buildings show no signs of the tragedy that took place here a year ago, including the campus dormitory where two students were killed, and Norris Hall, where shooter Cho chained the doors shut and killed 30 more people inside before killing himself.
But just a few steps away, a semi-circle of 32 granite blocks are a lasting memorial on a campus where the community is balancing the need for institutional memory with the call to move forward.
Tyler Deacon, 19, sees opportunity in the wake of disaster.
The tragedy "put a positive light on Virginia Tech because everybody came together as one," said Deacon, who started at the school last August. "We're more united than other campuses."
Pastor McDearis said the shooting made him more keenly aware of the fleeting nature of life.
"I learned very quickly last year not to take anything for granted," he said.
"I have three children … Every day I have with them is precious now because I know how quickly it can be taken away."