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article imageCNN and BBC to Report Again from Zimbabwe

By Chris Dade     Jul 29, 2009 in World
For several years now global media outlets wanting to report on the situation in Zimbabwe have had to do so whilst undercover. The BBC, CNN, Fox News and ABC were amongst those who found themselves banned from operating in the country.
However, in what is perhaps a signal that the grip on power of long-time President Robert Mugabe is further receding, it has been announced by Zimbabwe's Minister of media, information and publicity Webster Shamu that CNN and the BBC are now able to operate in the country without restriction.
The Guardian reports Mr Shamu as saying that whilst the organizations were never actually banned from carrying out what he called their "lawful activities", all parties concerned had come to acknowledge "the need to put behind us the mutually ruinous relationship of the past".
Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, finally gained its independence from the British in April 1980 and since that time Robert Mugabe has served as either the country's Prime Minister or its President. However as criticism of his policies, which led to hyperinflation and shortages of food and other goods in the country, grew so too did Mr Mugabe's determination to defy his critics.
Stifling internal criticism often involved terrible abuses of human rights whilst countering external criticism meant banning the international media from the country. Even media from Zimbabwe's neighbor and traditional ally South Africa have found themselves unable to report from the country which sits on their Northern border.
Then came the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of March 2008. Despite widespread acceptance that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai had won a majority of the seats in parliament, defeating President Mugabe's ZANU-PF, the President was determined to hold on to power. It was not until September 2008, after months of violence and an election re-run regarded by many as a sham, that an agreement was reached whereby Mr Mugabe would retain the Presidency and Mr Tsvangirai would become Prime Minister.
As the process of democratization moves forward within Zimbabwe, with it has come the desire of Mr Tsvangirai's administration to reengage with the outside world. Consequently, discussions with representatives of both the BBC, effectively banned from Zimbabwe since 2001, and CNN took place and an agreement was reached for the British broadcaster and its American counterpart to start covering events in Zimbabwe once more.
The BBC's World News Editor Jon Williams was one of those involved in the negotiations with the Zimbabwean authorities and he gave this reaction to the lifting of the restrictions on his reporting team:We are pleased we have been able to reach an agreement and we look forward to being able to operate legally in Zimbabwe. We all recognise the realities of the situation. If we look back, we will never look forward. We have different perspectives on this, but we have both agreed we need to look forward. The most important thing is not what has happened over the past 10 years, it is that we can go into Zimbabwe and report openly and legally
Mr Williams added that a full bureau may well be opened in the country.
A representative of the American broadcaster confirmed that their organization would also be returning to Zimbabwe, saying:CNN has not been allowed to operate in Zimbabwe. We welcome the opportunity to do so going forwards
The announcement that the international media, or at least parts of it, would now be allowed to operate again inside the African country was welcomed by the independent Zimbabwean media organization Misa Zimbabwe. A spokesperson for Misa went on to say that the government of Mr Tsvangirai should now be looking to lift the ban previously imposed on various publications, accused of not toeing the government line. That ban was instigated by the regime of President Mugabe.
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