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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 23:45 GMT
Zimbabwe enacts media curbs
A newspaper seller in Harare
Journalists will need government accreditation
A new law curbing the activities of independent and foreign news media in Zimbabwe has been enacted by the government.

Local journalists will have to be accredited by a government-appointed panel, and foreign correspondents will be officially barred from working full-time inside Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe delayed signing the media bill into law
The law also restricts reporting of meetings of the cabinet and other government bodies.

The move comes two days after President Robert Mugabe's controversial election victory.

The Freedom of Information and Right to Privacy Bill establishes a Statutory Media Commission, which will require all journalists to apply for a one-year renewable licence.

Stringent requirements

Accreditation will be granted by a panel hand-picked by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.

Licences will only be granted if a stringent set of requirements is met, and may be revoked at any time.

Foreign journalists may be given permission to work in Zimbabwe for a "limited period," but the law does not stipulate how long that might be.

Any journalist found guilty of any offence will face a fine of up to Z$100,000 ($1,875) or two years in jail.

Voters in the Glenview township wait to vote
Controversy still surrounds the presidential election
Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party pushed the bill through parliament in January, but the president delayed signing it into law during the election campaign after widespread international criticism.

The legislation provoked a storm of protest, both locally and internationally.

Zimbabwean journalists described it as "fascist", and a parliamentary committee, led by a prominent ruling party figure, published a damning rejection of the original draft.

BBC foreign correspondents have not been allowed to report from inside Zimbabwe.

Routine harassment

Our correspondent Grant Ferrett, in South Africa, says that even before the bill became law, news organisations were already operating under severe restrictions.


Choose a link below for latest news from around the country:

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He says that harassment of non-government journalists has become routine and it is clear that Mr Mugabe will brook no criticism.

He is due to be sworn in for his fifth term as president on Sunday amid accusations that last weekend's election was neither free nor fair.

Newspapers in South Africa and Britain say that South Africa is pressing Mr Mugabe to form a government of national unity with defeated opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Quoting official sources in both governments, the Johannesburg Star says the Zimbabwean Government had rejected the proposal.


The elections were legitimate, are valid, they were free and fair and we've got to respect that

Jacob Zuma
SA vice president
Click here to tell us your views
But analysts say that South Africa can exert pressure on Zimbabwe as it provides vital economic assistance.

Election observers from South Africa have already described the election as neither free nor fair, although they did say it was "legitimate".

Mr Mugabe officially defeated the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) by 56% to 42% of the vote.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Grant Ferrett
"President Mugabe appears in no mood to compromise"

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See also:

14 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Straw condemns Mugabe 'tragedy'
13 Mar 02 | Africa
Africa backs Mugabe win
01 Feb 02 | Africa
Media rounds on Zimbabwe law
18 Mar 02 | Africa
Summit strikes Zimbabwe deal
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