ZIMBABWE - Government bars many international news media from covering 29 March elections



    MONTREAL, March 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders condemns the
Zimbabwean government's refusal to allow several leading international news
media to cover the 29 March general elections although it has signed
international conventions that require it to guarantee "total access to
national and international media."
    "The 29 March poll has again been marred by authoritarian measures and
irregularities," Reporters Without Borders said. "When they have taken stock
of these latest developments, the international observers accepted by the
government will not be able to pretend that the circumstances surrounding the
elections were fine. It is clear that press freedom, at least, has not been
guaranteed, which is a serious flaw for elections that are supposed to be
democratic."
    Presidential spokesman George Charamba announced on 24 March, five days
ahead of the poll, that a government committee set up to examine requests from
international media for accreditation to cover the elections had refused most
of the requests. "We are mindful of attempts to turn journalists into
observers and security personnel from hostile countries," Charamba had
previously said.
    The main news media to be rebuffed are the British state broadcaster, the
BBC, the American TV networks CNN and MSNBC, the South African broadcaster  
E-tv, the London-based dailies The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, and South
Africa's Independent Newspapers Group.
    The government has granted accreditation to the state-owned South Africa
Broadcasting Corporation but has forbidden it to use its own satellite
transmission equipment. It must instead use equipment provided by Zimbabwe's
state-owned broadcaster, ZBC.
    As regards international news organisations that are already accredited
in Zimbabwe, which including Reuters, Agence France-Presse, the Associated
Press and the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al-Jazeera, Charamba said the
committee took a "sympathetic view" to their requests to send additional
support staff for the elections but he warned that their bureau chiefs would
be held "fully accountable" for their behaviour.
    Zimbabwean journalists have also been banned from covering the elections.
Freelance journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, winner of this year's "Desmond Tutu
Leadership Fellowship," was told by the electoral commission on 11 March that
his accreditation request had been turned down on the instructions of the
government-controlled Media Information Commission (MIC), which has put him on
a blacklist although he has MIC accreditation valid until the end of the year.
    The Southern African Development Community's "Principles and Rules
Governing Democratic Elections," which Zimbabwe signed in 2004, require member
states to guarantee "total access to national and international media" during
elections.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary General,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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