CPJ Calls For Zimbabwe To Release Times’ Scribe

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[Zimbabwe Elections 2008]

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the detention in Harare today of New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak and calls for his immediate release. CPJ is also deeply concerned about reports that Zimbabwean authorities have detained other foreign correspondents.

“In light of the political situation, it is imperative that all journalists, foreign and domestic, be allowed to work freely,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on authorities to immediately release Barry Bearak and any other journalist currently being held.” 

In a statement, the Times said that police had detained Bearak, a Johannesburg-based reporter who was in Zimbabwe to cover the country’s election. Executive Editor Bill Keller said the newspaper did not immediately know where Bearak was being held, or whether any charges had been filed.

Keller described Bearak as “an experienced and respected professional who has reported from many places.” Bearak won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for coverage of life in Afghanistan, the paper said.

Other foreign correspondents were also believed to have been detained, according to CPJ sources in Harare and initial news reports. No other names were immediately confirmed. The Media Institute of South Africa, a press freedom organization, said a large contingent of police had come to the York Lodge, a hotel where a number of foreign journalists had been staying, to make arrests. 

“I can confirm that we have arrested two reporters at York Lodge for practicing without accreditation," police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told Reuters. He said police would identify them on Friday.

President Robert Mugabe, who was clinging to power after 28 years as ruler, also moved against opposition party leaders today. The Associated Press reported that authorities raided a hotel used by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.  

Delays in announcing the results of Saturday’s vote have caused mounting international concern. Zimbabwe’s election commission has issued results in the parliamentary races—won by the opposition—but has yet to announce tallies in the presidential and senate races. The opposition has claimed victory in the presidential vote.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

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