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Zimbabwe court clears foreign journalists of illegal reporting charges

[JURIST] A judge in Zimbabwe on Wednesday cleared two foreign journalists of charges of reporting on the country's March 29 presidential election [JURIST report] without obtaining proper credentials. Barry Bearak of the New York Times and Stephen Bevan of Britain's Telegraph were arrested [CPJ press release; JURIST report] in early April and held for five days before being released on bail [NYT report] but were prohibited from leaving Zimbabwe until the court's ruling. Many saw the arrest of the journalists as indications that long-time Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] may refuse to relinquish power if he is found to have lost the recent general election, the official results of which have not yet been announced by the Electoral Commission [official website]. Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] has insisted its candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won the popular vote, but has indicated that it is willing to participate in a run-off, as have officials of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Earlier this week, an attempt by the MDC to force the Electoral Commission to release election results was rejected, as a court refused to compel release of the results [JURIST report].

Zimbabwe opposition parties allege that the government rigged the country's local, senate, assembly and presidential elections, while Mugabe's administration has denied any improper delays in the vote count. Electoral Commission officials attribute the lag in reporting the official outcome to the task of tallying all the results together for the first time in the country's history. AP has more.

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