By: Joe Strupp and The Associated Press
A New York Times reporter in Zimbabwe who was so concerned about his safety that he had a Page One story this week initially published without a byline has been detained by police there, the Times revealed late Thursday.
An Associated Press dispatch now relates that he has been spotted in jail with another journalist and may be charged with practicing journalism without approval.
A statement from Executive Editor Bill Keller stated:
“Barry Bearak, a Times correspondent based in Johannesburg, was taken into custody today by police in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he was covering the elections. He was apparently one of a number of Americans and other foreign nationals rounded up today. An American consular official who visited him at the central police station reported that he was being held for ‘violation of the journalism laws.’
“We are making every effort to assure that he is well treated, and to secure his prompt release. Barry is an experienced and respected professional who has reported from many places. He won a Pulitzer prize in 2002 for his deeply affecting coverage of daily life in war-torn Afghanistan.”
THE AP reports today that a group of riot officers sealed off the York Lodge, a small hotel in suburban Harare frequented by foreign journalists: “A lodge worker who refused to be identified said six people were detained, including Barry Bearak, a correspondent for The New York Times. The identities of the other journalists could not be learned, but Bearak was later located in a Harare jail.
“Zimbabwe lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said two of the journalists were jailed and told they would be charged Friday with practicing journalism without licenses.
“Zimbabwe prohibits foreign journalists from reporting there without government approval, which is granted only rarely. In recent years, Western journalists lacking accreditation have routinely entered the nation openly, although quietly, to chronicle political and economic problems there.”
Bearak’s story in Wednesday’s paper on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe first ran online and in some print editions without a byline because he was concerned about safety, Times officials said Wednesday.
“We withheld Barry Bearak’s name at his request as a security precaution,” Diane McNulty, Times executive director of community affairs and media relations, told E&P in an e-mail on April 2. “But as more Western journalists used their bylines and as the story grew more prominent, Barry felt it was time to use his byline, which appeared in the latest editions of the newspaper.”