About 300 foreign journalists have applied to cover the forthcoming
harmonised elections amid suspicion that some of them are "uninvited
observers and security personnel" from hostile countries, writes Munyaradzi Huni in the Sunday Mail.

 

The journalists are from 70 media organisations from some Islamic states, from Africa, Britain, America, Germany, Canada, some Nordic countries, Ireland, Portugal, Japan, Australia, France and the Netherlands.

All major news networks from Britain and America want to cover the elections.

Among the applicants are satellite television stations, free to air television stations, specialist television channels that deal with financial news, internet channels, cable networks, tabloids, broadsheets, think-tanks that specialise in conflict and post-conflict studies, television footage services and still picture services.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Publicity, Cde George Charamba, yesterday said the Government was aware of the "machinations to turn journalists into observers". He said the accreditation of journalists would be done after close scrutiny.

"The issue of media accreditation is as much an information issue as it is a foreign policy and security policy issue. For that reason, we have a team drawn from information, foreign affairs and the security arms that are examining each and every application," he said.

"This committee is working closely with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission whose accreditation has to validate our foreign policy and security goals.

"In terms of priorities, we are giving first preference to media systems of Sadc, of Africa, of the Third World bearing in mind those countries and organisations that have been invited to observe our elections. I want to empasise that the fact of operating in an African country alone is not enough. The national identity of the news organisation will be a major determinant.

"We are mindful of attempts to turn journalists into observers, or to smuggle in uninvited observers and security personnel from hostile countries under the cover of the media or think-tanks. Those will be flushed out.

"We are also aware of journalists from Western countries who have sneaked into the country, for example, one from the British Guardian newspaper and our security personnel are on the spoor. Let me warn those news organisations who choose to sneak in that they are prejudicing their applications that are already with us and are exposing their personnel to arrest," said Cde Charamba.

He said the Government had deployed enough personnel around the country to bring to book those found breaking the law.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the Sunday Mai's website.