Zimbabwe bans English cricket journalists

Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Zimbabwe has blocked the BBC and a number of national British newspapers from covering England's controversial cricket tour of One-day Internationals.

The decision to deny 13 of 36 visa requests from British media outlets wanting to cover the tour which starts on Friday was made on political grounds, George Charamba, secretary for the Zimbabwe government's Ministry of Information, said.

"Bonafide media organisations in the UK have been cleared but those that are political have not," he said on Tuesday.

"This is a game of cricket not politics. Those that want to bowl us out of politics we will have to engage them at the political stadium ... and its fixture will be in March next year."

Despite the ban the tour is set to go ahead.

"I expect the tour to proceed despite the unfortunate situation regarding media accreditation," confirmed England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman David Morgan to the BBC.

"It's unfortunate and embarrassing and something that we will be pursuing on arrival there with the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket."

The visa ban follows the expulsion in April this year of veteran British sports columnist Mihir Bose a day after his arrival to cover the Zimbabwe versus Sri Lanka cricket series.

The Daily Telegraph writer was told he had applied too late for accreditation and was put on a plane to Johannesburg the next morning.

And in 2001 Harare kicked out a BBC correspondent and vowed never to accredit any BBC journalists.

The following year Robert Mugabe's government introduced a media law making it mandatory for all foreign journalists to apply for accreditation at least a month before their planned visit.

All applications are processed by the information ministry.

Among those turned down were ones from The Times, Telegraph, Sun, Mirror and their Sunday versions.

The others, including Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Independent and the Guardian and agency reporters from Reuters and the Press Association will all be allowed access.

Speaking to BBC Five Live, Morgan added: "The England cricket team is committed to appear in Zimbabwe for the future tours programme which is a regulation of the International Cricket Council."

Peter Chingoka, chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket said: "I have no say whatsoever in accreditation.

"Government officials are the ones who handle that. I have just passed on my information to the ECB and my dealings are with them."

The International Cricket Council (ICC) says it is seeking urgent clarification from the Zimbabwe government on the grounds for the decision.

The issue of the accreditation for journalists has been discussed by the ICC executive board twice this year.

"All countries recognised that the media regulations of the Zimbabwean government are different to those imposed in other cricketing countries," said ICC president Ehsan Mani.

"They accepted the undertaking of Zimbabwe Cricket that it would do everything possible to work with each country to assist cricket journalists seeking accreditation" Mani added.

The five-match One-day series starts on Friday with England travelling to Harare from Namibia on Wednesday.

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