Charamba, Zwizwai clash over foreign journalists

HARARE - Deputy minister of Information and Publicity Murisi Zvizwai has said foreign journalists are welcome to cover political and crucial events taking place in Zimbabwe unhindered, contradicting his permanent secretary George Charamba.

The deputy minister said this following an announcement by Charamba, who said Zimbabwe was considering barring some foreign journalists bent on discrediting the country’s electoral processes.

“As a ministry we are wondering whether it helps this country to double accredit institutions that are already accredited here thereby exposing ourselves to parachute journalism. They come with a story already written in their heads.” Charamba was quoted.

Charamba said his ministry was consulting with “leadership” on how to deal with foreign journalists following an attack on two BBC journalists in Mbare early last month who were covering preparations for a crucial referendum.

The spin-doctor, who is also President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, was quoted in the State-controlled media recently saying that some foreign media organisations had an agenda to portray Zimbabwe as a violent nation especially as the country prepares itself for watershed polls.

But Zwizwai said Charamba’s statement does not reflect a government position but “probably” his personal opinion.

The statement could be a surface reflection of how frosty relations are in the coalition government and the continued discord that has affected service delivery throughout the entire coalition government formed by Zanu PF and two MDC formations.

Although Zanu PF usually has a last say in the fragile coalition government, the MDC deployee to Media, Information and Publicity ministry, says external newsmen wishing to work in the country are welcome.
“Government has no intention to block, muzzle or prohibit any foreign journalist from visiting or reporting on events and activities involving Zimbabweans as this infringes on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media,” Zvizwai said.

According to the deputy minister, “with a digital age that is here to stay, it is folly for any government to slide backwards and contemplate introducing discredited social engineering methods such as media controls.”

“The official position is that our nation has nothing to hide as it was founded on universal principles of an open society where ordinary people are allowed to share their facts and opinions through the media as a market place,” he said. - Xolisani Ncube

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