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Banned from Zimbabwe

Milton Nkosi | 11:45 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2007

Zimbabwe is one of the biggest stories for the BBC on the African continent today. It is now public knowledge that we are banned from working inside Zimbabwe.

moyo_203ap.jpgJust to clarify, for those who may wonder, when exactly did we get banned? In July 2001 the eccentric former minister of information Professor Jonathan Moyo said in a letter addressed to me, that he is “suspending all accreditation of BBC correspondents” who want to work in Zimbabwe.

This was after a report by Rageh Omaar on Robert Mugabe's speech at the opening of a joint session of parliament on 24 July.

In his speech the president of Zimbabwe vowed to continue with his programme of land 'acquisitions'. We reported that he vowed to continue with 'forcible land acquisitions’. Moyo argued that Mugabe was referring to 'legal' acquisitions.

Since then, it's been really hard to openly obtain material from inside Zimbabwe. We've asked individuals to record their stories. This created a challenge for them when their material was broadcast on BBC channels; they were accused by the Zanu-PF led government of spying for the British government and the BBC.

We've also been lucky in that the agencies tend to gather material which we have access to under our existing agreements. They've done a fantastic job under very difficult conditions.

For obvious reasons I will not give you a blow by blow account of how we get the material across the Limpopo River into the edit suites and studios here in Johannesburg. However, the system seems to work sometimes, but not always.

I think the biggest credit ought to be directed to those who gather material undercover, specifically for us, risking their lives to record sounds for radio programmes, stills for the website and VT material for our TV programmes.

These are the heroes who keep our coverage from Zimbabwe distinctive.

I take my hat off to those who continue to gather the relevant material, so we can continue to report the story for our audiences around the world. But we should also salute the people of Zimbabwe who agree to be recorded and filmed, often under very perilous conditions - it's their texts, calls and e-mails that give us an insight into what's going on.

Long may they continue. May their gods be with them!


  • 1.
  • At 01:10 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • simple fact wrote:

Why do you think the BBC is reporting the beating of Morgan Tsvangirai as "alleged". Do they think his injuries (that he didn't have before being arrested) came out of thin air?

All of Zimbabwe is in my thoughts and prayers.

  • 3.
  • At 01:39 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Fitz Linton wrote:

Perhaps if BBC was seen to be less biased and disrespctful in its reporting the outcome would have beeen different. However, it seems clear, at least to the powers that be, from the words and tone of reportings, that BBC is bent on undermining the Mugabe government. Which leader could tolerate that?

  • 4.
  • At 03:15 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

The penalty for telling the brutal truth about a brutal dictatorship is expulsion at the very least. Mugabe is nothing more than a thug who will keep control of power no matter what it takes or how many people he has to imprison, torture, or kill. BBC knows this and that is why it tiptoes around the issues regarding comparable abuses of human rights in more important places where news is made like China and Russia. It knows they'd be thrown out of there just as unceremoniously. It only hunts down whatever it can dredge up and twist into a story in places where it knows it will be the United States. How about a story about Cuba BBC and how about some investigative reporting about why 29,000 Cubans suddenly went blind a few decades ago? Was it an accident involving leakage of Soviet nerve gas? How about some stories about the leakage of nuclear waste and other polutants poisoning the Russian people or the danger of their absurd nuclear reactors which were built without containment buildings? How about some stories about the torture and sale of body parts like replacement kidneys of political dissidents and members of religious cults like the Falun Gong in China by their government? What's the matter BBC, afraid they won't let you back into their country in time to cover the olympics?

  • 5.
  • At 05:11 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • pauline wrote:

While I obviously think what is happening in Zimbabwe is not healthy, I feel the BBC is to blame for being banned. There is definitely biased reporting on the part of BBC. I am Zimbabwean myself and I have seen some of the BBC reports claiming people are dying on the streets etc, and the portrayal of Morgan Tsvangirai as some knight in shining in armour! There are times I struggle to reconcile the truth with the BBC reports. BBC never bothers to speak to just ordinary people who do not have an axe to grind! Some of the BBC reports are actually ridiculous to Zimbabweans or people who really know the situation. For example some months agoon the BBC website under the Profiles, supposedly of real Zimbabweans, there was a story about a former farm worker who is said to have been evicted from a farm because his boss's farm was repossessed. The story claimed this farm worker had to move to Harare and had bought a house and a minibus! Now for anyone who is truly in the know this is incredible, there is no way a former farm worker would be able to afford a house in Harare, even in the worst part of Harare since farm workers got pittance in salary. As for buying a minibus, he couldnt even buy a wheelbarrow on a farm worker's salary! SO if BBC wants to be a credible source of information on ZImbabwe or any country at all they should try and get their facts right.

Pauline. East London

It shames me that our government in the UK has taken such a feeble stand against the regime in Harare and allowed the suffering to continue. Thank you Milton for your efforts to get news out of the country.

I agree with Fitz Linton (no. 3). I don’t think your reporting is fair. It has an attitude about it where it is clear you disapprove of the Zimbabwe government. If you were to simply report facts and leave out the innuendo and comments, perhaps you would be more respected. You should stop interfering in the affairs of other countries.

  • 8.
  • At 12:19 AM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Given a choice between reporting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth at the risk of being thrown out of a country by a government angry at being exposed for crimes against humanity on the one hand and self censorship to keep the ability to say in country on the other, which does BBC choose? Did it learn a lesson in Zimbabwe it does not want to repeat in China? Russia? North Korea? Viet Nam? Sudan? Iran? Syria? Cuba? You get the picture. What about staying in the good graces of non state actors it might want to report on for instance by not using the word "terrorism" to describe some of the things they do? As an example, the Taleban? The Palestinians? Didn't do you much good in Gaza BBC did it, they still kidnapped your reporter anyway. Deals with the devil don't always work out as planned. That's because as most people know, there is no honor among thieves.

I couldn't disagree more with some of the comments above. The shameful thing is not the BBC's reporting, but the UK government's feeble stance against Harare. Thank you Milton, and everyone else in the chain, for trying to bring the news out of that benighted place

  • 10.
  • At 08:55 AM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

Fairness implies even-handedness in treatment of reporting a state of affairs, in this case. By definition, there is no 'fairness' in your treatment of news presentation! Whether there is great civil/ethnic abuse in Zimbabwe is therefore not at all clear. Fairness in the management of the bigger picture would bring more credibility and less knee-jerk reaction to the story being (selectively?) spoon-fed the UK observers.

One has also to speculate where this 'information' takes us: Are we being goaded into another UN resolution to war with a faction out-of-step with the wider world's sense of right? Or the First/Western world's sense of right?

It's a hapless situation that repeats since time immemorial. There are few natural resources involved, so no Gulf War scenario: There is no 'nuclear' issue (yet!): There is no adjacence too close to 'home', so we're all right. :-/

Why then raise international awareness when no-one stands to win anything except derision and sanctions for going-it-alone? Familiar?

I am saddened by oppression, but there is evidence that there is more to keep in sight - a lot closer to home!

  • 11.
  • At 11:36 AM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • Colm wrote:

With regard to posters 3 and 4; the facts speak for themselves:
Life expectency 1996: 63, 2006: 36 (WHO)
Inflation: 1980: 7%, 2007: 1730%
Unemployment currently ~80% (CIA)
Free press? Daily News shut down in 2004

Is there a way of reporting these that shows the government in a positive light?

So what's wrong with land acquisitions? Did the current incumbents come to own the land from a voluntary sale, paying a fair market price to the original owners during colonisation? How come in a tiny minority of white people own the majority of land in a majority black country?

I don't see a similar BBC protest against the Geneva convention, and its principles of the restoral of ownership of art stolen by the nazis in WW2. Isn't this effectively the same thing?

I strongly disagree with post 3 & 4. the Mugabe government has been single-handidly responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwe economy, the reduction in land available for cultivation, an unconsciencable decrease in productivity from cultivated land (resulting in famine and starvation), attacks on the white citizenry, and the forceful beating and banning of the opposition. Its not for or against the government, those are facts.

  • 14.
  • At 11:44 PM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • Jim-UK wrote:

I'm with Fitz and Ken on this one. Try just reporting the facts in future and leave the opinions out of it. If your going to go into a country that is run by a dictator and openly criticise him and his government what do you expect to happen?

  • 15.
  • At 04:49 AM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • David wrote:

#3 and #4 are obviously stooges of the Illegal Zimbabwean Government where you don't eat unless you support Mugabe and hold a Zanu PF card. How I wish Zimbabwe had massive Oil deposits - that would encourage intervention by the world powers. It is some consolation that support for Mugabe is finally waning, not a moment too soon. My thoughts are with my brother and sister who still think Rhodesia is worth saving and remain there suffering in silence.

  • 16.
  • At 08:54 AM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • robert wrote:






  • 17.
  • At 09:38 AM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Jennifer Kimani wrote:

In regard to Lintons & Kens (no. 3 &4) comments.The BBC reporting is quite fair.I disapprove of the current Zimbambwe regime.Why would you beat up people who have no weapons?How can Africa just watch this kind of injustice yet it's only the west that's coming out very clearly.The African Union is just playing their diplomatic role of well edited press statements won't do any good.The West has nothing to loose after role it's not their people who are dying and can't afford basic needs!I wish the issues of land would be solved with an open mind.The common people are suffering just because one man won't listen!I just hope this won't turn in another Darfur, Somali etc while we are watching!

  • 18.
  • At 12:19 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Joe wrote:

If the reporting of Zimbabwe makes the Zimbabwean government look bad its bacause of the actions of the government, not the BBC.
The BBC is banned there because Mugabe doesnt want the rest of the world to know whats going on.

  • 19.
  • At 02:54 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Jennifer Kimani wrote:

Out of all broadcasting stations i know in this world BBC is the most unbiased. Please tell me one reason Mugabe should be given the benefit of doubt over his uncruel deeds in the name of the west hanging themselves over reporting the truth!Have u seen Chamisa he looks like he is in a coffin!My heart goes out to those harmless people going through all this beatings just because they want a better life.

  • 20.
  • At 11:47 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Alex S wrote:

While it may be true that the BBC's coverage isn't completely and utterly neutral, this is because NO news service is completely neutral. News is produced by humans, and humans all have individual biases.

I think the BBC should strive to be as unbiased as possible, but honestly, if an administration needs to ban a respected news organisation from reporting inside its territory, it's probably because they're doing something that they know the services' audience will find objectionable.

  • 21.
  • At 11:10 AM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Alex #12

Yes no other news service is non biased. But the BBC is the ONLY news service that the people of the UK have to pay for.

I don't have a choice, if i want a T.V i get a license or i get sent to jail. So the BBC has to be unbiased.

But they are not, if you think its ok for the BBC to be biased then it should be commercialised and you can pay for it. Why should i pay my hard earned money for propoganda and misinformation.

And whilst yes most people would agree mugabe is a bad thing for his country why does the BBC have to hold that opinion or any opinion for that matter? Just report the facts i will make up my own mind.

If it wasn't for the fact the BBC force feed there propoganda to the British people and that it directly effects UK democrasy it would be a joke how the BBC constantly go on about impartiality whilst constantly preached its ill founded hippie opinions.

  • 22.
  • At 01:00 PM on 21 Mar 2007,
  • Jason wrote:

Reply to #3.

Using that logic we should ban some newspapers in the UK with their "biased and disrespctful" coverage!

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