Zimbabwe goes into crucial elections this week with the majority of
international media unable to cover the event, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.
CNN, South Africa's e.tv,, as well as British TV networks BBC, ITV and Sky TV and BritainÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Guardian and Daily Telegraph have all been unable to secure accreditation.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents Association of Southern Africa (FCA-SA), representing 192 journalists from 122 media around the world, has condemned "the near blanket denial of accreditation".
The FCA-SA said the rare approvals were given according to race or nationality.
"This is of course unacceptable. And it would be quite naive to imagine that the coverage would be more lenient if carried out by writers, photographers and TV crews of a specific origin," the FCA-SA said in a statement.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The organisation also pointed out that the fees demanded were astronomical, and this precluded many of its members from applying for accreditation. Fees were "the highest ever on the African continent: USD 1,500 for temporary general accreditation 2 to 300 US dollars for the electoral commission accreditation".
"The whole process is creating an "elite" of journalists allowed to do their jos in Zimbabwe, belonging to a certain race or chosen nationalities, and benefiting from the support of rich media," the FCA-SA said.
Although no reasons were given by the information ministry for denying accreditation, the government has in the past accused these media houses ofÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œfabricating, exaggerating and manufacturing negative newsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â on Zimbabwe andÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â of being biased against President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF.
CNN said it regrets the Zimbabwean government's decision. "We hope that the government will reconsider its decision. CNN will continue to cover the elections as widely as possible from South Africa and surrounding countries," said a statement on CNNÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s website.
An official from the Ministry of Information said e.tv was denied accreditation because two of their reporters, including Zimbabwean-born Peter Moyo, were arrested and prosecuted last year when they attempted to report on diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe.
The official also said two journalists from France 24 who had sneaked into the country have been arrested and deported.
Presidential spokesman, George Charamba says the government is closely screening applications from over 300 media houses who want to cover the elections. He said some western journalists are coming into the country disguised as journalists yet there are spies and observers.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThere are unprecedented requests for field studios and most of the media organisations want to deploy their star anchorpersons straight from Kenya. The CNN wants to deploy Nic Robertson, who is coming straight from Baghdad, while ITN wants to deploy the world renowned Jon Snow,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Âsaid Charamba.
Among the few international news organizations accredited to Zimbabwe are the SABC, Reuters, AFP, AP, ChinaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Xianua and Al Jazeera.
Recently Charamba summoned accredited international journalists and read them the riot act. He warned them that they will be arrested and deported if they are seen with local or international journalists who are not accredited.
HarareÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s banning of some media organizations defiesÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â the SADC protocol on free and fair elections, which makes it mandatory for member states to grant full access to national and international media for all elections held in the region.
In these elections, President Mugabe faces tough challenges from his former finance minister, Simba Makoni, and the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.