- Zimbabwean authorities have warned that any western journalist that enter their country without official permission to cover the combined 29 March elections will be arrested.
George Charamba, Permanent Secretary of Information Ministry, told 'Sunday Mail', "we are aware of attempts to turn journalists into observers, or to smuggle in uninvited observers and security personnel from hostile countries under the guise of the media or think-tanks."
He said a team involving ministries of information, foreign affairs and security arms are examining about 300 accreditation applications from foreign journalists wishing to cover the elections.
"We are also aware of journalists from western countries who have sneaked into the country," he said, noting, "our security personnel are on the spoor."
Zimbabwean Media and Information Commission (MIC) is charging US $1,000 for accreditation for foreign journalists. Local journalists representing foreign media will pay US $4,200.
Charamba said the large number of western media application for accreditation was "giving credence to allegations that these countries want to use the media as a monitoring surrogate."
He wondered why most of the applicants were covering conflicts in Iraq and Kenya "as if Zimbabwe is about to start a war."
"There is a strategy to use images to galvanise international opinion," he said. "There is an expectation of blood in the streets which explains the deployment of war correspondents and cameramen. "They must gore the screen. It's a way to psych the world against the results."
President Mugabe, 84, is seeking a sixth mandate in office. He is being challenged by three candidates, including the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai and a form Finance Minister, Simba Makoni, who is running on an independent ticket.
Zimbabwean officials barred western observers from monitoring the elections, accusing them that "the only free and fair elections could be won by the opposition."
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