British reporter in Zimbabwe says revolt against Mugabe underway

By staff writers
January 15, 2008

One of the BBC chief reporters has defied a government ban on the Corporation's personnel operating in Zimbabwe, and has reported that opposition to President Robert Mugabe is growing within his own Zanu-PF party.

John Simpson, who came to the attention of a world-wide audience, during the 2003 Iraq war, has been on assignement undercover in Harare and in other parts of the troubled country, where economic collapse, poverty, food shortages and disturbance are putting the southern African nation on the edge of collapse.

Church and human rights leaders are among those who have been speaking out against Mugabe, who Simpson says fears that if his regime collapses he may face charges of crimes against humanity at the International Court in the Hague.

But the BBC roving reporter says that although there is a virtual stalemate between opposition and government, which has recently launched another military-style crackdown on its critics, the fact that the former finance minister in Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF Party is now planning to stand against him, accusing him of being "authoritarian", may spell the beginning of the end for the internationally-condemned president.

Critics of the BBC may accuse it of undue bias in its reporting on the issue, but the Corporation is likely to respond that it has a duty to reveal what is really going on inside Zimbabwe in the face of a reporting ban.

The BBC ran Mr Simpson's report on life and politics inside the country as a lead story last night when it came up against a revived ITV 'News At Ten' programme again for the first time in a number of years. The two programmes now go 'hed to head' each weekday night.

ITV responded with a dramatic story from one of the Greenpeace ships involved in challenging Japanese trawlers hunting whales.

Media analysts say that although the competition may make each news service work harder, there is a danger that 'tabloid values' and sensatonalism may increasingly creep in to news braodcasting.

Some are drawing parallels with the successful 1990s Chris Morris TV news spoof 'The Day Today', which cruelly and entertainingly satirised the excesses of rolling news, and is still used as a warning and training device for jouranlists working in TV to this day.

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