Cricket writers say Zimbabwe tour reporters need protection

Players can drop out of the tour if they feel there is a moral argument

The Cricket Writers’ Club has entered the controversy surrounding the England cricketers’ tour of Zimbabwe next autumn by demanding that the game’s ruling bodies protect journalists from harassment.

Two reporters, CWC member Mihir Bose of The Daily Telegraph and Telford Vice, a freelance South African representing Reuters, have been forced to leave Zimbabwe after it was claimed they had no accreditation to cover the series between Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

A Sky News crew was also expelled from Zimbabwe last week after the authorities said they were not cleared to enter the country.

The CWC has condemned the decison to expel Bose and called on the cricketing authorities to let journalists covering the Zimbabwe tour to do their job without harassment or censorship.

Colin Evans, chairman of the CWC, said: “The Cricket Writers’ Club, which represents more than 350 members worldwide, deplores the treatment of Mihir Bose, who had the proper accreditation and was in Zimbabwe on legitimate reporting duties.

“Our members must be allowed to carry out their duties free from censorship, threats or bullying wherever they are working and we call on the authorities to safeguard our rights. “The International Cricket Council has a duty to ensure that our members, who promote and publicise the game of cricket, are treated with respect by all 10 Test-playing nations.”

The CWC, which has represented cricket journalists for 60 years, has also asked the ICC to negotiate with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union to remove the US$600 fee now payable for each reporter’s accreditation. It said Zimbabwe is the only country in the world that imposes a levy.

Last week, MPs tabled a motion calling for the tour to Zimbabwe to be called off following the deportation of Bose. The MPs, who included former Labour sports minister Kate Hoey and Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram, claimed the Zimbabwean Cricket Union had been infiltrated by the ruling ZANU PF party. Bose also commented: “I have come to the conclusion that the Zimbabwe Cricket Union is no longer in charge.”

It appears that the England and Wales Cricket Board intends to go ahead with the tour, although individual players will be able to drop out if they feel there is a moral argument against touring Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe has a notorious record of violating journalists’ rights and banning foreign reporters. Last September the biggest selling independent newspaper in Zimbabwe, the Daily News, was forced to close after armed police occupied its office. Many independent Zimbabwean journalists have been arrested, harassed and forced to leave the country.

SJA SAYS NO TO ZIMBABWE CRICKET TOUR WITHOUT GUARANTEES

The Sports Journalists’ Association has written to the English Cricket Board calling for England’s tour of Zimbabwe to be cancelled unless there are guarantees that journalists can go about their legitimate business.

SJA chairman Peter Wilson has told ECB chief Tim Lamb of its concern at the deportation of Mihir Bose.

He wrote: “It is quite clear that the Zimbabwe government is not keen to have British journalists in the country and is most definitely opposed to anyone who might write anything critical of the regime or even the Zimbabwe Cricket Board.

“Our concern is not only that Mihir was deported for going about his professional duties, but also the implication this has for other colleagues should England go ahead with their tour of Zimbabwe.

“Can the ECB or the British government guarantee that similar incidents will not occur to cricket writers following the England tour? I am sure that neither the ECB nor the British government will gain any credibility whatsoever if television pictures later this year show a long queue of respected colleagues (Selvey, Marks, Pringle, Engel, Martin-Jenkins, the list could be endless) waiting to be deported.

“We hope that you will make the strongest protest possible about Mihir’s deportation and secure guarantees from the Zimbabwe government that, should England’s tour go ahead, similar incidents would not occur. Unless those guarantees are forthcoming we strongly suggest that the tour should be cancelled.”

By Jon Slattery

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