Last British correspondent is forced to leave Zimbabwe

 

Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore has condemned Zimbabwe for refusing to renew the work permit of the paper’s correspondent in Harare, David Blair, forcing him to leave the country within a fortnight.

Blair has reported from Zimbabwe since May 1999 and is the last resident British correspondent in the country.

Moore said the Zimbabwe Government’s claim that Blair’s permit was not being renewed for "administrative reasons" was a smokescreen to cover its attempts to muzzle objective reporting.

"The last Daily Telegraph correspondent to be expelled by an African government was in 1972 by Idi Amin. It is an odious comparison but increasingly Zimbabwe is looking like a dictatorship."

Three BBC journalists were also forced to leave Zimbabwe after the Government imposed new rules for accreditation of foreign reporters.

Simon Finch, John Sweeney and James Miller were in Harare to film last week’s solar eclipse, but fell foul of new restrictions requiring journalists to apply for accreditation a month before entering the country.

The crew, who were filming for BBC2’s Correspondent, had been told that they would be given accreditation on their arrival.

But they were forced to leave their hotel last Tuesday by state intelligence and immigration officers who drove them to the airport.

Under the new rules, imposed by the minister of information and publicity, journalists have to return to their home country to obtain accreditation as the department will no longer process applications from journalists in Zimbabwe.

Rageh Omaar, the BBC’s Africa correspondent, and Peter Biles were able to get to Zimbabwe from South Africa in time to cover last week’s eclipse.

Following the deportation of BBC journalist Joseph Winter in February and the continued efforts of the Zimbabwe Government to discredit the foreign press, the new rules will fuel concerns about a media clampdown by Robert Mugabe ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

 

By Jon Slattery and Julie Tomlin

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