The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists group, today condemned the Zimbabwean authorities for blocking an IFJ monitoring mission from the country.
Farhana Ismail, a member of the IFJ's Executive Committee, and Tuwani Gumani, Coordinator of the Southern Africa Journalists Association, were both detained on arrival at Harare airport and expelled from Zimbabwe on March 3.
The IFJ mission planned to meet with Zimbabwean journalists and monitor the conditions under which they are working during the election campaign. The purpose of the mission was to express solidarity and support for Zimbabwean journalists. It was organised in response to mounting concerns over the safety of journalists following the flight of Basildon Peta, General Secretary of the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists, from the country.
"We are appalled by the action of the authorities in blocking the mission," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The IFJ is deeply concerned about the conditions under which journalists are working in Zimbabwe. It has gone beyond a matter of enabling journalists to report freely and independently. It is a matter of physical safety."
The IFJ said it will maintain close contacts with the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists during the election period and will provide whatever support it can. "We are concerned that the government wants to keep secret what is going on in this critical period", said Aidan White, "but that will not stop journalists in the region and around the world giving their full support to their colleagues".