Minister berates state agents over journos arrest

walter_mzembiHARARE Tourism Minister Walter Muzembi (Picturewd) last week he was extremely concerned about the attitude of the countrys security forces after state agents...........

in the southern town of Masvingo last Thursday arrested a Mexican journalist cleared by government to film in the town.

It was not immediately possible to establish the journalists name or the publication he works for in Mexico but in Zimbabwe, journalists work has been complicated by the hostile attitude of state security agencies the feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police who have arrested and intimidated independent journalists.

Muzembi told reporters that he feared that the continued disregard of the countrys laws would scare away critical foreign investment and the flow of tourists to the southern African country.

We cannot attract tourists if we do not look at our law and order, said Muzembi. We approve a journalist from Mexico to go and film in Masvingo and he was arrested. The same journalist with my driver, my car and a government letter were arrested.

He wanted to film for Mexican tourists ahead of the World Cup in South Africa, but the first call I received once he got there was he was at a police station. He has understood that we are in a transition and we have said it will not happen again.

Zimbabwe remains one of the most difficult countries for journalists to practise their profession despite formation of a coalition government by Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai 12 months ago.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai undertook in the power-sharing agreement that gave birth to their coalition government to restore democracy in Zimbabwe and to ensure respect for human rights including press freedom.

The former foes also undertook to reform the police and other security arms of government to ensure they respect and uphold human rights.

But the troubled unity government is yet to move on security sector reforms while the army and police continue to exhibit repressive tendencies jeopardising the southern African countrys efforts to recover from a spate of bad publicity over the past decade which affected tourist arrivals.

Muzembi said despite the impediments his ministry had faced as it tried to reverse the decline in arrivals, Zimbabwes tourism industry had bounced back to recovery in 2010, putting up a 13-percentage point surge from -9 percent in February 2009 to a positive growth of 4 percent in November.

The tourism industry is expected to grow by 10 percent this year, the minister said.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe will today hosts its first major international tourism summit in Harare since the formation of the coalition administration with 300 high profile international investors, including the World Tourism Organisation expected to attend.

The summit will give Zimbabwe a rare opportunity to reposition itself as a competitive destination, Mzembi said.

He added that while Zimbabwe had mostly targeted the Asian markets in the past decade, it will be shifting its policy to include the traditional Western markets, which is a high spending segment with low volumes.

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