Zimbabwe minister threatens media crackdown
* Minister threatens journalists on press freedom day
* Accused of intimidation tactic ahead of elections
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE, May 3 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe on Thursday threatened a crackdown on the media over what it called sensational and inaccurate reporting, following stories over the health of 88-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
However critics said the warning from the country's information ministry, controlled by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, could be an attempt to intimidate journalists ahead of elections expected next year.
Senior ZANU-PF officials last month were forced to issue statements dismissing reports that Mugabe was seriously ill in Singapore, saying the stories were lies meant to destabilise Zimbabwe.
Addressing journalists at an event to mark World Press Freedom Day on Thursday, information minister Webster Shamu said: "If the clearly anti-African and anti-Zimbabwe frenzy we have experienced through some media outlets and platforms in this country continues, and if the conspiracy of silence within the media industry and profession also persists, the gloves may soon be off here as well."
Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing deal with his rival and now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, after a disputed 2008 poll which Western powers said was marred by ZANU-PF violence and intimidation.
Under the terms of the deal, elections must be held by next year. Continued...