Police in Zimbabwe have arrested three journalists who were demonstrating against a proposed law that aims to place tight controls on the press and freedom of expression.

The three were among a group of about 80 journalists from independent newspapers protesting outside Zimbabwe's parliament against the Access to Information Bill.

A police spokesman said they were arrested and charged with holding an illegal gathering likely to breach the peace.

If the bill becomes law, all journalists and media organizations in Zimbabwe will have to be licensed by the government and will have to be residents or citizens of the country.

Critics of the law say it is aimed at barring foreign reporters. If the bill is approved, journalists who violate it face up to two years in jail.

Some of the protesters were wearing cloths over their mouths to symbolize their fears that the bill seeks to silence the opposition press. Some were carrying placards saying they will not register to write the truth.

The demonstration was brief, lasting about 30 minutes, and dispersed when police carrying teargas equipment arrived.

One of the demonstrators, Reyhana Masters-Smith of a Zimbabwe media watchdog group, the Media Institute, said there was no justification for the police action.