Al-Jazeera to set up bureau in Zimbabwe

The Qatar-based Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera is to set up a news bureau in Zimbabwe, state radio reported Thursday. It said officials of Al-Jazeera met with Zimbabwe Information Minister Tichaona Jakonya in Harare and said they would report objectively on the southern African country. Most Western correspondents have been barred from entering Zimbabwe on assignment amid government claims of bias against President Robert Mugabe in the Western media.

Under sweeping media laws enforced since 2002, the state Media and Information Commission has shut down three independent newspapers, including The Daily News, the only independent daily. At least 40 independent Zimbabwean reporters have been arrested, threatened or assaulted on allegations they criticized the government, falsified information, supported Mugabe's opponents or worked illegally. It is illegal to work as a journalist in Zimbabwe without a state license. State radio quoted Al-Jazeera director of news Steve Clark saying the broadcaster planned to open at least eight offices in Africa alongside those already established in Egypt, Ivory Coast and Kenya. He said most international news agencies had focused on conflict, hunger, disease and other African "stereotypes" in their coverage of the continent, the radio reported, reports the AP. N.U.