Brussels: The International Federation of Journalists on Wednesday attacked cricket chiefs for insisting that Zimbabwe was safe for reporters to cover the World Cup. The press campaign group also lobbied media mogul Rupert Murdoch to lift cash penalties linked to tournament television rights which the IFJ said were placing money above safety. "Zimbabwe is anything but a safe venue for journalists," IFJ general secretary Aidan White said in a letter to Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
"Over the past two years we have seen numerous acts of violence against media, a wholesale legal assault on independent journalism and the creation of an atmosphere of intimidation against the exercise of free reporting, whether by foreign correspondents or local journalists," White said. "You appear to show no consideration for the difficulties facing journalists who will be expected to cover cricket events scheduled for Zimbabwe." The IFJ has protested at what it calls "gagging orders" demanded of visiting sports journalists by the government of President Robert Mugabe, stopping them from reporting on anything unrelated to the cricket World Cup.
The lobby group said it had also written to News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch, demanding he lift penalty clauses which could force cricket authorities to pay $ 2 million a game for loss of broadcast revenues. "These penalties should be waived so that a judgment about participation and reporting of these matches can be taken according to the imperatives of safety without fears of financial damage," White wrote in his letter to Murdoch. On Tuesday, the IFJ condemned a "campaign of intimidation" against Zimbabwe's top independent newspaper, the 'Daily News'.