Not even the usually sympathetic South African Broadcasting Corporation
(SABC) had the welcome mat put out for it by the Zimbabwean authorities
as it prepares to cover that country’s election on Saturday, writes Wilson Johwa in Business Day.

An SABC spokesman said the corporation was sending 74 people, including production staff and journalists. This was slightly more than for the 2005 parliamentary elections. However, it was understood that the SABC initially had to deal with unofficial disquiet from Harare about some of its coverage.

Most other South African media houses were guarded about their plans for covering the elections, for fear of prejudicing their applications.

However, had resigned itself to not sending a team. Editor-in-chief Deborah Patta said Zimbabwe’s official Sunday Mail newspaper broke the news that the station’s presence in Harare was undesirable, leading get confirmation from SA’s foreign affairs department.

Patta said the fact that the Zimbabwean authorities had left it this late before acknowledging applications showed how much of a “sham” much of this coverage would be. “An election is not about one day,” she said.

Two weeks ago, Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary in the information ministry , George Charamba, revealed that about 300 foreign journalists had applied for official accreditation to cover the elections. Charamba warned that Zimbabwe’s security personnel were on “the spoor” of foreign journalists who had sneaked into the country, where unaccredited journalists face harsh penalties including a prison term.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business day's website.