The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Zimbabwean authorities to drop charges against New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak, British freelance journalist Stephen Bevan and South African satellite technicians Sipho Moses Maseko and Abdulla Ismail Gaibbe, who are accused of covering the elections in the country without accreditation.
“These cases have been brought by authorities in an attempt to intimidate journalists and stifle international coverage of the elections,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa office. “The judges in charge of these cases should dismiss all the charges and the authorities must return their travel documents and allow them to leave the country.”
Maseko and Gaibbe were arrested on March 28 on charges of working without accreditation and illegally observing the elections. At the time of their arrest they were working for the South African company Globecast to provide satellite services for broadcasters covering the elections. The original charges against them were thrown out of court earlier this week but were soon reinstated by police who also added a charge against them for “defeating the course of justice”. They were released on bail on 8 April and are expected to appear in court on Monday.
In a separate case, Bearak and Bevan were arrested on 3 April and charged with “practicing without accreditation.” They were granted bail and released on Monday. According to the German news agency DPA, their case was to be heard in court today.
The IFJ condemned the harsh conditions of detention of the four journalists and the media workers. After their release, all four had to undergo medical treatment. Sources say Gaibbe caught bronchitis in jail after he was forced to sleep on the floor. Bearek sustained a back injury after falling onto a concrete floor from his prison bed.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 33 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries