Free Barry Bearak and Stephen Bevan

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Barry Bearak is a Johannesburg-based journalist for the New York Times and a former colleague of mine at the Los Angeles Times. Barry is also one of the finest in our business, a gifted storyteller who has devoted his career to shining a light on the suffering of the poor and the oppressed in the worst corners of the world. He is the winner of countless prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award.

Barry and British journalist Stephen Bevan are now in their fourth day of detention in Harare. Their offense: Covering the election there without receiving the official media accreditation that the Mugabe government hands out to a few favored journalists from what are deemed friendly countries. Under Zimbabwe’s absurdly restrictive laws, this could land them two years in prison.:

The attorney-general found no case against them and they were supposed to be released on Friday, said Mtetwa.

“But police refused (to release them), on the basis that they were waiting for orders from above. Then Saturday, they brought new charges.”

The court has not yet issued a date for their hearing.

Asked about their condition at Harare central police station, Mtetwa said as “okay as one can be in that filthy place”.

UPDATE: Thankfully (and thanks commenter KathyR for calling this to our attention), they have been freed on bail. This, however, is troubling:

Under the terms of his bail, Mr. Bearak was released to a clinic; he suffered some injuries as the result of a fall from the concrete bunk in his cell to the concrete floor, seven feet below.

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