THE arrest of a foreign journalist in Masvingo last week has prompted an angry reaction from press freedom groups and the government, with Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi lashing out at the police, writes Alex Bell for SW Radio Africa.

Mzembi was left embarrassed after the Mexican journalist, who was travelling with the Minister, was arrested last Friday by state security agents, despite having special permission to be in the country. The journalist had been accredited by authorities to make a documentary on tourist sites in Zimbabwe, ahead of the football World Cup, set to get underway in South Africa in June.

“The same journalist with my driver, my car, and a government letter, was arrested,” Minister Mzembi said. “We cannot attract tourists if we do not look at our law and order.” The International Press Institute (IPI) has also reacted with anger to the arrest of the journalist, who was only released after the Minister’s intervention later the same day. IPI director David Dadge criticised the unity government for failing to implement proper media reforms, which has resulted in the arrests and intimidation of at least three journalists this year.

“While there has been much talk of improvement to the press freedom climate over the past year, the Zimbabwean government still needs to sensitize police and intelligence agents to the rights of journalists,” Dadge said in a statement. “It is unacceptable for criminal and security legislation to be used as tools for jailing reporters.”

On 18 January freelance journalist Andrison Manyere was arrested while covering a demonstration calling for better education, by the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise. He was released the same day. Earlier that same week, freelance journalist Stanley Kwenda was forced to flee the country after receiving a death threat. The caller, allegedly a police officer, warned Kwenda that he would not survive the weekend if he didn’t leave.

Click here to read the full report, posted on SW Radio Africa's website.