MARCH 31, 2005
Posted: May 10, 2005

Toby Harnden, The Sunday TelegraphJulian Simmonds, The Sunday Telegraph

Harnden, chief foreign correspondent for the London-based Sunday Telegraph, and photographer Simmonds were arrested at a polling station in Norton, a town near the capital, Harare, according to a statement from the newspaper. The journalists were charged with working without accreditation under Zimbabwe’s draconian media law, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which requires all journalists in Zimbabwe to register with the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC).

Under AIPPA, reporting without accreditation can mean a jail sentence of up to two years. Harnden and Simmonds also faced a charge under Zimbabwe’s immigration law, their lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, told CPJ.

George Charamba, Zimbabwe’s secretary for information and publicity, told the state-run Herald newspaper on April 1 that the two would be deported. But a trial proceeded on April 5, and on April 4 prosecutors invoked their authority to override a magistrate’s decision granting bail to the journalists, Mtetwa said.

On April 14, both journalists were acquitted of the charge of reporting without accreditation, and were released on bail. Magistrate Never Diza said that state prosecutors had failed to prove that Harnden and Simmonds, who said they had traveled to Zimbabwe as tourists, were working in the country illegally. “All in all, the state failed to provide sufficient evidence to show the accused persons have a case to answer,” Diza said, according to news reports.
On April 15, the journalists were handed over to immigration authorities for deportation after being separately acquitted of the immigration charge. Later the same day, Harnden and Simmonds boarded a plan and safely reached neighboring South Africa, a Telegraph spokeswoman told CPJ.

According to state media in Zimbabwe, hundreds of foreign journalists were accredited to cover Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections on March 31. However, dozens were also refused accreditation and accused of political bias, including all journalists from the BBC and from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Charamba said in a statement that the BBC journalists were denied access because “they already perceive the elections as not free and fair,” according to the Zambia-based independent daily The Post. At least one journalist from the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph‘s sister paper, was denied accreditation, which Charamba said was “due to having previously broken Zimbabwean and international broadcasting law.”