Zimbabwe cherrypicking of journalists to cover elections questioned

( dpa )- The Foreign Correspondents Association of Southern Africa (FCA-SA) on Thursday condemned the Zimbabwean government's decision to bar most of its members from covering the country's elections Saturday.

In a statement the FCA-SA blasted "the near blanket denial" of accreditation requested by its members. The FCA represents 192 journalists from 122 media outlets around the world.

"No reasons were given by Zimbabwean authorities for the refusals but a survey of FCA-SA members indicates that the rare approvals were given according to race or nationality," the statement said.

"This is of course unacceptable. And it would be quite naive to imagine that the coverage would be more lenient if carried out by writers, photographers and TV crews of a specific origin," the statement continued.

"When the government rejects all fears of a rigged election, why is it trying to shield these elections from the vast majority of professional journalists," the association asked.

Journalists from several southern African media outlets have been accredited to cover the polls.

Germany's ARD television, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian daily the Globe and Mail and Spanish daily El Pais were among the few Western media houses to receive accreditation, which, at between 1,700 and 1,800 dollars per person, was seen as deliberately prohibitive.

Two weeks ago, George Charamba, permanent secretary in the Zimbabwean ministry of information, accused Western countries of seeking to send journalists to the elections as a "monitoring surrogate."

Western election observers have been barred from monitoring the polls.

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