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State media banned from covering opposition party ministers

(MISA/IFEX) - The Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity has reportedly ordered the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and other state-controlled newspapers to stop covering ministers belonging to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, until the party reverses its decision to suspend contact with Zanu PF, which is led by President Robert Mugabe.

According to the privately-owned "Zimbabwe Standard", ZBC chief executive Happison Muchechetere told the state broadcaster's senior editors about the directive on 23 October 2009. This comes in the wake of a decision on 16 October by Tsvangirai and his MDC-T to partially withdraw from the inclusive government until the resolution of outstanding issues that have not been fulfilled by the Global Political Agreement signed by Zanu PF, MDC-M and Tsvangirai's party. The MDC-T has said it remains part of government but will not attend Cabinet and Council of Ministers meetings with Zanu PF until outstanding issues in their power-sharing agreement are resolved.

ZBC's head of news, Tazzen Mandizvidza, said he was not aware of the directive. "I was out of the country. I came back on Friday night but if there was such a directive I would have been informed," he said. The Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, and Permanent Secretary George Charamba were not immediately available for comment. However, Shamu's deputy, Jameson Timba, who is a member of the MDC-T, warned that the order would poison the already polarised political environment in the country. "These are some of the issues that are causing tension in the inclusive government, where the public media is used to advance the interests of one political party or individual," Timba said.

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