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Intelligence organisation tries to gag newspaper

(MISA/IFEX) - On 20 March 2008, Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) sought a High Court order to bar publication of the private weekly, "Zimbabwe Independent", which was about to disclose details relating to the organisation's director-general, Happyton Bonyongwe.

The ex-parte application was served on paper and listed the CIO as the applicant and the "Zimbabwe Independent" as the respondent. Attached to the application was a print-out of the unedited version of the story. In its 21 March issue, the "Zimbabwe Independent" reported that it was still trying to determine how the story ended up with the CIO before the issue had been published.

In Bonyongwe's affidavit, he said the story was "manifestly and palpably false and malicious" and should thus not be published.

Contacted for comment, the "Zimbabwe Independent" said there were issues that were still being clarified regarding the matter.

Meanwhile, the state-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) has reportedly blacklisted several journalists by asking the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to bar them from being accredited to cover the 29 March 2008 elections.

Hopewell Chin'ono, a local freelance journalist was denied accreditation on 11 March by the ZEC on the MIC's instruction. According to his lawyers, the ZEC advised the journalist that he was on the blacklist provided by the MIC.

Chin'ono is duly accredited by the MIC in terms of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) as a freelance reporter and his press card is valid for the duration of 2008.

In a letter to the ZEC, his lawyers argued that it was "inescapable that the ZEC was deliberately impeding the full coverage of the election process" through selective accreditation of journalists.

"We have perused all the laws relating to the elections and the media and we have been unable to find in them any provision which allows the MIC to interfere with the supposedly independent functions of the ZEC," said the lawyers in their letter to ZEC.

For further information on the pre-election media clampdown, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91934/

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