Monday, April 25, 2005

Undercover Reporter.

"News is what someone does not want you to print, the rest is just advertising"
Tom de Castella on the risks of being an undercover reporter in Zimbabwe.

At Linquenda House, Harare's gloomy immigration department, the official inspecting my visa extension form asks me what I do. "I'm a wine seller," I lie. "You're not a news seller?" he shoots back, his eyes watching me mischievously. "What's that?" I say, trying to be innocent, but taken aback by his apparent mind-reading. "A journalist," he answers. "Oh, no, I'm not one of them" I say, trying to laugh. He chuckles and explains that "some of your fellow countrymen are attempting to come in and make trouble," before stamping my passport. That was in 2002, but on subsequent trips I have been a birdwatcher, architect and cricket fan. Such is life for the "tourist" in Zimbabwe, where lying to strangers and suspicion of others becomes second nature. You know that you could be jailed for up to two years, but you are also aware that unaccredited journalists caught by the authorities are usually deported.

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