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Zimbabwe Detains 2 American Journalists - 2003-01-28

Two American journalists, from the Associated Press and National Public Radio, as well as a Zimbabwean freelance photographer, were arrested Tuesday in Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo.

Their lawyer says reporters Dina Kraft of the Associated Press and Jason Beaubien of U.S. National Public Radio, and Zimbabwean photographer Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi were accredited to report on a field trip organized by the United Nations World Food Program.

They were picked up at noon, Tuesday, outside the government's Grain Marketing Board, and the lawyer hired to secure their release said he was denied immediate access to them. The lawyer spoke on condition that he not be identified.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the arrests, and says the journalists will be released as soon as they produce documentation to prove they are in Zimbabwe legally.

The Zimbabwe government allowed more than a dozen foreign journalists into the country last week, after requests from the World Food Program, which is providing food for three million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population.

Accreditation was denied to British and Australian journalists, who had applied to cover WFP's work.

The group of foreign journalists saw the first people in Harare to receive free food from the WFP, and went on to Bulawayo on their way to rural areas in Zimbabwe's driest province, where experts say hundreds of thousands of people would die if not for the food provided by the WFP.

The government's Grain Marketing Board, where the journalists were arrested, is the only legal grain trader in Zimbabwe. Opposition supporters and human rights groups have accused the Board of refusing to sell grain to people who are not members of the ruling Zanu PF party.

Western diplomatic sources said they hope the three journalists will be released soon.