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A ZIMBABWEAN
court on Monday released a US journalist and a British national on bail after charging them with reporting on the March 29 elections without accreditation, their lawyer said.

"They have both been released on 300 million dollars bail," lawyer Harrison Nkomo told journalists outside the court. The bail amount is equivalent to US$10,000 according to the official exchange rate.

He said New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak, 58, and a 45-year-old British national had been told to reappear in court on Thursday and ordered to stay in Harare.

The pair were arrested at a Harare guest house on Thursday and have spent four nights behind bars.

Bearak, who won a Pulitzer prize in 2002 for his reporting from Afghanistan, has been ordered to stay at the US embassy and the Briton at a medical clinic after he slipped and injured his back in jail, Nkomo said.

Zimbabwean authorities barred most foreign media from covering last Saturday's presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections and had warned they would deal severely with journalists who sneaked into the country.

However a number of news organisations, including the BBC, have been filing reports from correspondents operating under cover.

President Robert Mugabe's government passed a media law on the eve of the last presidential elections in 2002 which has been invoked to expel foreign correspondents and shut down at least four independent newspapers.

A South African media worker was admitted to hospital in Zimbabwe on Sunday, 10 days after he and a colleague were jailed for working without accreditation, his employer has said.

Sipho Maseko and colleague Abdulla Gaibee, who work for Globecast satellite services, were arrested on March 27.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won control of the Zimbabwean parliament for the first time in the March 29 polls but the outcome of the simultaneous presidential election is still unclear.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has claimed outright victory but the ruling Zanu PF says there is no clear winner and has endorsed Mugabe to run a possible second-round vote as well as demanding a complete recount. - AFP
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