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Politics | Human rights | Media

Zimbabwe's main free newspapers re-licensed

Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) chairman Godfrey Majonga

© PM's office/afrol News
afrol News, 27 May
- Four new independent daily newspapers have been licensed to publish in Zimbabwe in a move that is expected to herald a new era after a decade of media censorship. The famous 'Daily News' is being re-launched.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) chairperson Godfrey Majonga told journalists at a press conference in Harare yesterday that the Commission had considered registration applications of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) to re-launch the 'Daily News', and Alpha Media Holdings to publish a new daily known as 'Newsday'.

The 'Daily Gazette' published by Modus Publications, owners of the weekly, 'The Financial Gazette' has also been licensed while the fourth licence was granted to a privately owned company, Fruitlink Ventures, to publish 'The Mail', according to information reaching afrol News from the Office of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

ZMC leader Majonga at the press conference said that Fruitlink Ventures is a youth organisation that had received money and support from the National Youth Empowerment Fund. He refused to disclose the identities of the people behind the company.

The ZMC is an independent commission created early this year as one of the four new Constitutional Commissions. It took over the media licensing responsibility from repressive agencies installed by President Robert Mugabe that sought to limit independent reporting in Zimbabwe by closing down free voices such as the 'Daily News'.

During the last decade, all independent daily newspapers in Zimbabwe were forcedly closed down. Only a few independent Sunday weeklies were let alive, but limited into a low circulation by a controlled access to paper. During the last few years, only the strongly oppositional 'Zimbabwean', edited and printed abroad and distributed in Zimbabwe, managed to reach a larger readership on a weekly basis.

The new ZMC now reopens the possibilities of a free press in Zimbabwe. "The Commission has accepted to grant all the above applicants registration certificates. The licences will be issued s soon as possible. We have agreed that the licences should be worked on tomorrow or the day after and those that have received their licences can start publishing immediately," announced Mr Majonga.

He however said the publishers should wait for the "process" of issuing out licences but that process should not take a week.

Mr Majonga said the Commission had also granted an application by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to change the frequency of its publication, 'The Worker', to a weekly instead of a monthly.

He also called on foreign publications to register with the Commission. Several regional newspapers, mostly South African publications, have taken up a fair share of the Zimbabwe media market but with no local registration.

"The commission resolved that all foreign publications with typically Zimbabwe content and targeted at the Zimbabwe readership should be registered with the Commission. The ZMC is committed to the establishment of a free media that is a market place where citizens have easy access to a wide range of quality information and diverse views that reflects Zimbabwe's cultural views," said Mr Majonga.

Asked why the ZMC inherited a secretariat headed by Tafataona Mahoso, from the repressive but now defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC), Mr Majonga said they had no "issues" with any member of the secretariat. Mr Mahoso was retained as the chief executive of the ZMC.

"The Zimbabwe Media Commission has inherited the secretariat from the Media and Information Commission. The decisions that will be implemented by the secretariat are the preserve of the ZMC and the commissioners whose names were gazetted," said Mr Majonga.

Mr Mahoso, who became known for his unparalleled vitriol against democratic voices using the state media, presided over the closure of more than four newspapers in the past decade.

Mr Mahoso "is not a commissioner. He is a member of the secretariat. We as a commission do not have any issues with any individuals in the secretariat at the moment but should issues arise from refusal to implement decisions and policies of the ZMC then any individual will be dealt with by the commission," explained Mr Majonga.

On the granting of radio and television licences, Mr Majonga said this was the work of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), which is yet to authorise new operators.

The licensing of newspapers comes as Prime Minister Tsvangirai expressed concern at the delay in the opening up of media space. Only last week, the Premier told journalists that he would summon the ZMC to explain the delays.

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