Zimbabwe’s new media commission said on Wednesday licenses have been granted to allow four new private daily newspapers to start operating, in the first concrete move to relax tough media rules.
“The Zimbabwe Media Commission is committed to the establishment of a free media that is a marketplace where citizens have easy access to a wide range of quality information,” said the commission’s chairperson Godfrey Majonga.
One of the licenses went to Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, which published the Daily News, a popular newspaper renowned for it willingness to criticise President Robert Mugabe.
The paper survived bombings of its premises and arrests of its journalists until authorities finally shut it down in September 2003.
Licenses were also granted to a firm called Fruitlink to publish the Mail; to Alpha media to publish Newsday; and to Modus Publications to re-launch the Daily Gazette, which closed due to lack of advertising in 1995.
Trevor Ncube is the proprietor of Newsday, as well as deputy chairperson of Mail & Guardian publisher M&G Media.
“The commission has accepted to grant all the above applicants registration certificates,” Majonga told a news conference late on Wednesday.
Media reforms are part of the power-sharing agreement between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe, who has been in power
for over 30 years.
Majonga said the four daily papers were the only ones which have so far applied for licenses.
Tsvangirai has vowed to abolish the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which bans foreign journalists from working permanently in the country.
The 2002 act forced media organisations and journalists to register with a government body. This resulted in several newspapers being closed down and foreign correspondents being deported.
Last month, the commission slashed its registration fees for media organisations and journalists, making it easier for them to operate. – AFP