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Journalists barred from covering talks

(MISA/IFEX) - Several journalists were barred from covering the SADC Troika-mediated talks held in Harare on 27 October 2008 as part of efforts to break the impasse over the allocation of ministerial positions in accordance with the terms of an agreement for an inclusive government signed by the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations.

Security details manning the entrance to the premises of the Rainbow Towers Hotel, where the talks were being held, turned away a number of freelance journalists who are not accredited with the statutory Media and Information Commission (MIC) and demanded they produce MIC accreditation cards allowing them to cover the event. Accreditation of journalists by the MIC is no longer compulsory following the December 2007 amendments to the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

Previously, on 15 and 16 October 2008, an official from the Ministry of Information and Publicity approached Brian Hungwe and Peta Thortnycroft, who freelance for foreign media organizations, and ordered them to leave the hotel where they were mingling with other journalists who were maintaining a vigil on the talks that were being facilitated by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. The official reportedly told the journalists that he was acting on instructions from his superiors.

MISA-Zimbabwe calls upon the Parliament of Zimbabwe to repeal the AIPPA as a matter of urgency as it poses serious violations to media freedom and freedom of expression and also violates the 2002 Banjul Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, which frowns upon statutory regulation of the media as is the case in Zimbabwe under the MIC.

The Banjul Declaration states that self-regulation is the best system of instilling professionalism in the media. MISA-Zimbabwe reiterates that journalists have the professional mandate to cover and report on the country's socio-economic and political developments as they unfold without any hindrance.

For further information on the Hungwe and Thortnycroft case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97780

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