The SA National Editors' Forum is deeply alarmed at the manner in which
the Zimbabwean authorities have detained in police cells two foreign
correspondents — an American and a Briton – – and two South African
technicians employed by a satellite TV service company, Globecast, in
the last week, according to a media release.
The American, Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times Johannesburg correspondent Barry Bearak, 58, and the Briton, Stephen Bevan, 45, a freelance journalist with the Sunday Telegraph, were arrested on April 3 on charges of covering the elections without accreditation and jailed for the night. The following day the attorney-general dismissed the case as baseless. They were released only to be immediately re-arrested and jailed on unspecified charges which were later said by Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa to be ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œillegally observing elections without accreditationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Mtetwa has filed papers in the High Court in Harare applying for their release.
The technicians, Aipho Maseko and Abdulla Gaibee, were arrested on March 28 but acquitted on April 4 of charges under the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Immediately after their release they were re-arrested also on unspecified charges. Maseko, a diabetic, was seen by a South African embassy doctor and admitted to hospital where he was stabilised. Meanwhile, Gaibee also became ill and was treated for bronchitis. Both men received accreditation to work in the country.
Sanef strongly protests at the treatment meted out to the journalists and technicians, especially the latter who had complied with all requirements to enter Zimbabwe and carry out their duties.
Sanef notes that the original charges against the journalists were dismissed and also that Zimbabwe in 2004 signed the Southern African Development Community's ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œPrinciples and Rules Governing Democratic ElectionsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â, which obligates signatories to guarantee total access to both domestic and international media during elections.
Sanef calls for the immediate release of the four men and any other journalists or media personnel arrested by the Zimbabwe authorities while carrying out their duties in Zimbabwe and holds the Zimbabwe authorities responsible for any harm that they may suffer. It also draws the attention of the various election observer missions to take note of these gross violations of media freedom principles and those of the SADC democratic elections protocol.
Issued by: SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF)
07 April 2008
For more comment please contact:
Henry Jeffreys ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Deputy Chairperson: 082 556 8883
Raymond Louw ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Media Freedom Sub-Committee Chair: 011 646 8790 / 082 446 5155