Jailed for covering Zimbabwe

Barry Bearak, co-bureau chief of the New York Times South Africa bureau, was arrested and jailed for four days in Zimbabwe while covering the March 2008 elections. Mr Bearak, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2002 for his coverage of Afghanistan, was then expelled from the country. He talks to the World Association of Newspapers.

Barry Bearak

Your reports regularly put you in the line of fire. How is your work contributing to the establishment or defence of press freedom?

It is a rear-guard action. In places like Zimbabwe, we're clearly outnumbered and I can't say we are winning.

What are the added obstacles or advantages of being a foreign correspondent in hostile environments?

In my case, the added obstacle was that I got put in jail in Zimbabwe for simply doing my job. They said I was 'committing journalism' and I hope they were right.

During Zimbabwe's elections, you were arrested for "practising without accreditation" and detained for five days. In spite of these risks and what you went through, why do you think this event was important for you to cover?

In a once-great country of 13 million people, now controlled by a tyrant, an election was held in which many people risked their lives in order to vote.

Then the tyrant apparently fixed the vote count so that there needed to be a runoff and he sent out thugs to beat, kidnap and murder his perceived enemies.

With the support of other African leaders, he has schemed his way into maintaining the Presidency. Important, no?

Courtesy World Association of Newspapers

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Jailed for covering Zimbabwe


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