Mugabe move to 'muzzle' journalists

In another Draconian crackdown on the free press, the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe is planning to introduce a new law to license and control journalists, which could see foreign correspondents banned.

The Access to Information and Protection Privacy Bill would establish a new commission to regulate the press in a move which is seen as putting more pressure on independent papers like the Daily News.

Under the bill, local journalists and those working for the foreign media would have to hold "certificates of registration", renewable each year by the commission, which would have the power to discipline and fine journalists and take away their licences.

The bill would also make it a crime for journalists to "cause alarm and despondency" by their reporting.

Only Zimbabwe nationals would be allowed to work as journalists. Those working for the foreign media would have to be accredited by Jonathan Moyo, the information minister.

It was Moyo and his ministry who last week accused six foreign correspondents, including those of The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian and The Observer, of "assisting terrorists".

The attack has prompted the editors of the British papers to write to the Zimbabwe High Commission urging Mugabe to give assurances that the correspondents will be able to carry out their work unimpeded.

The Daily News, in a hard hitting leader this week, said of the proposed new laws: "Such fascist regulations can only be designed to muzzle the independent press, until the only news the people can consume is that which is churned out by a boot-licking Government media.

"Since the results of the 2000 constitutional referendum, the Government and Zanu-PF have targeted the independent press for virtual elimination."

The leader warned that Zanu-PF seemed determined to punish the independent press for reporting the truth about the referendum but added defiantly: "The truth has a way of returning to haunt those who try to abuse it."

By Jon Slattery

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