Vienna, 4 April 2008
IPI Calls on Zimbabwean Authorities to Immediately Release New York Times Correspondent Barry Bearak
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, calls on Zimbabwean authorities to immediately release Barry Bearak, a New York Times correspondent arrested in Harare last night.
According to information before IPI, Barry Bearak, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent based in Johannesburg, was one of six people taken into custody by Zimbabwean police after it raided a small hotel in the suburbs of Harare often used by international journalists. The identities of the other detained individuals remain unknown. Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed that two reporters were arrested at the hotel, and indicated that they were practicing journalism without the requisite accreditation. An American consular official was subsequently able to visit Bearak at Harare’s central police station, and reported that he was being held for “violation of the journalism laws”.
Bearak was in Zimbabwe to cover the 29 March general elections, the results of which have not yet been officially released. Zimbabwean authorities have prohibited several international media outlets from covering the elections, including BBC, CNN and South Africa’s E-TV, justifying the ban with their failure to secure the accreditation required from the governmental Media Information Commission. However, Zimbabwe in 2004 signed the Southern African Development Community’s “Principles and Rules Governing Democratic Elections”, which obligates signatories to guarantee total access to both domestic and international media during elections.
“The regulatory structures imposed by the Zimbabwean government have long served primarily to silence journalists, both local and foreign, but are particularly problematic during this vital election period, ” commented IPI Director David Dadge. “We call on Zimbabwean authorities to promptly release Mr. Bearak, and to stop relying on arbitrary accreditation requirements to prevent independent commentary on the elections.”