IFJ Accuses Zimbabwe of “Political Bullying” and Demands Release of Foreign Journalists Held in Raid

The International Federation of Journalists today accused the authorities in Zimbabwe of intimidation of journalists and called on the authorities to allow media to report freely as tension mounts following the elections for President held last Saturday.

The IFJ says the arrest of journalists in Harare yesterday was an attempt to sabotage media coverage media of the current political crisis and a possible run-up election which may be needed.

"It is absurd to suggest, as the authorities have, that these arrests are part of an investigation over spying," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Put simply, this is a sinister act of political bullying."

New York Times reporter Barry Bearak, 58, and Steven Bevan a 45-year-old freelance journalist from Britain were arrested and charged with “practising without accreditation,” according to reports. They were held at a guest house in the capital Harare that is popular with foreign journalists. Two others who were not identified were also arrested.

"At this critical moment in the history of modern Zimbabwe people have a right to know about different political opinions in the election," said White. "Journalists must be allowed to report freely and without intimidation.”

The authorities have banned most foreign media coverage of the elections last week but a number of news organisations have filed reports from correspondents who snuck into the country. In the moths before the election the government cracked down on local and national journalists, shutting down newspapers and allowing members of Mugabe’s political party to harass and attack journalists with impunity.

“It appears that people are voting for change and if that means a fresh start for media and freedom of the press, then it is long overdue,” said White.

For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide