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Journalists thrown out of Zim talks venue

(MISA/IFEX) - On 15 and 16 October 2008, two locally based foreign correspondents were ordered to leave the hotel lobby of the Rainbow Towers during the ongoing talks between the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations in Harare because they are not accredited under the terms of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

Accreditation of journalists by the statutory Media and Information Commission is no longer compulsory following the December 2007 amendments to AIPPA.

An official from the Ministry of Information and Publicity approached the two journalists separately around 8:00 p.m. (local time) on 15 and 16 October and ordered them to leave the hotel where they were mingling with other journalists who were reporting on the talks being facilitated by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. The official reportedly told the journalists that he was acting on instructions from his superiors. The journalists, who asked for anonymity, confirmed the incident to MISA-Zimbabwe on 16 October.

MISA-Zimbabwe condemns this blatant abuse of office by the government official as a serious violation of media freedom and freedom of movement, association and assembly, coming as it does a few days after several other journalists were barred from covering a press conference convened by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai at his residence in Harare because they were not accredited under AIPPA.

Journalists have the professional mandate to cover and report, without hindrance, on the country's socio-economic and political developments as they unfold. It is also the democratic right of journalists as Zimbabwean citizens to mingle and mix in public places of their choice at any given time.

According to MISA-Zimbabwe, these developments fly in the face of the 15 September agreement for an inclusive government and the commitment thereafter to work towards the creation of a new political culture of tolerance and diversity of views, in which the media plays a critical role in advancing that objective.