Zimbabwe: TV journalists arrested and held during cabinet meeting

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Reporters Without Borders today condemned mistreatment by Zimbabwean intelligence agents of two journalists working for Arab satellite TV station al-Jazeera.

Cameraman Austin Gundani was physically assaulted and then held for three hours, with his reporter colleague Haru Mutasa, at the presidency where they had arrived on 20 October to cover a cabinet meeting from which Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had pulled out.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said the incident demonstrated that “worrying tensions between President Robert Mugabe and his power-sharing government can have harmful consequences for the work of journalists”.

Austin Gundani had been filming the arrival of Zimbabwean ministers at the offices of President Mugabe when he was brutally arrested.

The two journalists were then locked up in a cell and interrogated, according to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders.

The incident came on the day Zimbabwe had improved its position on the organisation’s just-published 2009 world press freedom index compared with the previous year.

“The government has announced the return of the BBC and CNN, but it has to be said that it remains difficult for the international media to work in Zimbabwe without encountering trouble”, the organisation said.

It also comes a week after an independent photo-journalist, Anne Mpalume, was arrested in Manicaland in the east of the country where she was reporting on illegal diamond mining. The authorities accused her of not having permission. She was released on bail and will appear in court on 26 October.

See the al-Jazeera report on Morgan Tsvangirai’s boycott of the cabinet.

Source: Reporters without Borders (RSF)

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