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Cricket: England's Team Ordered Not to Travel to Zimbabwe

The English cricket team has delayed its arrival in Zimbabwe because the Zimbabwean government has denied entry to most of the British reporters traveling with the team.

The team, which was supposed to fly into Harare from Johannesburg Wednesday afternoon, was ordered by the English Cricket Board to delay its flight until the issue of the journalists is resolved. The team stopped over in South Africa after playing some warm-up matches in Namibia.

The decision comes after English Cricket Board chairman David Morgan failed to persuade the Zimbabwean authorities to allow the journalists into the country. A Reuters news report says Mr. Morgan told the team to remain in Johannesburg "pending further discussions with the Zimbabwean authorities."

The ten-day tour of Zimbabwe by the English cricketers has been the subject of intense debate due to alleged widespread human rights violations by the government of President Robert Mugabe. Some of the team members pulled out of the touring party in protest, but the body governing international cricket, the International Cricket Council, only allows a tour to be cancelled on the basis of security and safety fears.

The English team faces a two-million-dollar fine and possible suspension from international competition if it does not play its scheduled matches in Zimbabwe for any other reason.

Mr. Morgan is in Harare, where he is consulting with Zimbabwe Cricket officials who have told him that the matter of journalist accreditation is out of their hands. They say it is the government's responsibility to accredit foreign journalists wanting to work in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's strict media laws bar foreign journalists from working in the country, and Zimbabwean journalists must apply to a government-appointed commission for a license to operate.

The first of the five one-day matches the English are supposed to play in against Zimbabwe is set for Friday. Zimbabwe Cricket officials were not available for comment.

Relations between Britain and Zimbabwe have been strained since President Robert Mugabe's land reforms took land from white farmers - some of whom had British passports - and gave it to landless blacks.

Britain has also campaigned for international sanctions against Mr. Mugabe for allegedly rigging the 2002 presidential election. Mr. Mugabe says the election was fair and that Western governments have sabotaged his country's economy.

Some information in this report provided by AFP and Reuters.