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Media in Zimbabwe warned for biased reporting of crackdown on opposition

Zimbabwe issues stern warning to foreign media, singles out CNN.


March 24, 2007: The government of Zimbabwe has issued a stern warning to foreign media organizations operating in the country even as the crackdown on the opposition and democratic forces is continuing.

Zimbabwe’s Information Ministry and the state-sponsored Media and Information Commission have issued threats to foreign correspondents working in Zimbabwe and also accused CNN of biased reportage on the situation in Zimbabwe and “peddling false stories” on security issues.

The government also threatened to crack down on unlicensed foreign reporters making clandestine visits. Erring reporters have been asked to “stay away from the security forces” or face action.

State radio and television, Zimbabwe’s sole broadcaster, and the Herald newspaper, a government mouthpiece, singled out the US network CNN for “biased reports on political unrest and the alleged assault and torture of opposition leaders, including Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main Movement for Democratic Change.

The Zimbabwe government denied foreign news reports that it was forced to call in 2,500 paramilitary reinforcements from Angola to help control unrest because Zimbabwe’s own forces were no longer loyal to President Robert Mugabe.

In a statement, the Information Ministry in Harare said CNN’s editorial policy “echoed the United States government’s policy of regime change in Zimbabwe.”

Both state television and radio severely criticised CNN’s Africa correspondent, Kenya-born Jeff Koinange, now mostly reporting on Zimbabwe from outside the country.

In 2006, Zimbabwe officials were angered by a CNN report that said acute food shortages forced hungry Zimbabweans to eat mice. They also accused black reporters working for foreign news organizations of betraying their continent.

Four foreign journalists have been expelled under extensive media laws enforced since 2003. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is officially banned, and scores of independent local journalists have been assaulted or arrested and jailed under the media laws.

Robert Mugabe, 83, who has been ruling Zimbabwe for many years, had ordered a land re-distribution program in 2000 to seize white-owned commercial farms and hand them over to blacks. The program disturbed the economy of Zimbabwe, former breadbasket of the region – leading to acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline, medicines and other essential imports.

Annual inflation now stands at 1,730% in Zimbabwe, and the International Monetary Fund predicts it will reach 5,000% by the end of 2007.







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