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Media Restricted In Zimbabwe

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

The government of Zimbabwe continues its campaign of media suppression. This month, President Robert Mugabe signed into law a measure requiring journalists to be accredited by the government-controlled Media and Information Commission. Violators could be sentenced to prison terms of up to two years. The law also bars foreign journalists from living and working in Zimbabwe.

The action tightens the so-called Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, passed in 2002. That law led to the closing of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper. Four directors of the paper were put on trial for allegedly publishing without a license.

The commission in charge of licensing journalists and publications seems intent only on using media legislation as a political tool to silence voices that are raising legitimate concerns about the government's corruption, human rights violations, economic mismanagement, and abuse of the rule of law.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says that it "is deeply troubled by these measures, which will have a future chilling effect." Ann Cooper, the Committee's executive director, says her organization calls "on Zimbabwe's government to reject all repressive media legislation and to ensure a free media climate."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the U.S. is concerned "about the tightening of restrictions on journalists":

"The steps raise serious doubts about whether the government is committed to holding free and fair parliamentary elections in March. Stifling free discussion of political viewpoints through this law is inconsistent with election guidelines that were adopted by the South African Development Community in August of 2004."

The United States, says Mr. Boucher, urges the government of Zimbabwe to "allow independent daily newspapers to reopen and should lift licensing restrictions on journalists."