Zimbabwe media commission urged to issue licences
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean journalists on Monday accused a commission set up to drive media reforms of delaying the registration of new newspapers, but a cabinet minister said the issue was being used for anti-government propaganda.
In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe -- a coalition of rights lobby groups -- said local journalists were concerned that no new licences had been granted, months after the commission was appointed.
The southern African state, whose media is dominated by government and whose laws bar foreign journalists from long-term employment, created the Zimbabwe Media Commission early this year under reforms to open up a political system shut by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. "We want to urge the commission to get down to the business at hand -- licensing new players," the media alliance said in a petition read at the press freedom function.
"We are concerned that the Zimbabwe Media Commission appears hesitant and unsure of its mandate and yet it is clearly spelt out in the constitution," it said. Potential media investors are incurring unnecessary costs and hundreds of journalists remain unemployed because of the delay, it added.
ZMC Chairman Godfrey Majonga said the body would start processing applications for new licences this week, and Media and Information Minister Webster Shamu defended the commission, saying the Treasury had given it no operating funds.
"I urge the ZMC to stretch itself and take decisions on matters that have been stalled because of larger processes," he said, denouncing suggestions at home and abroad that Mugabe's ZANU-PF was stalling media reforms.
"It is a fact of history that Zimbabweans established democracy here, not the British (the former colonial power)," Shamu said. "That is why government's commitment to upholding democratic principles and values should not be challenged."
Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, was forced to form a power-sharing government over a year ago with the Movement for Democratic Change of his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to tackle the political and economic crisis.
Previously, a state-appointed body used tough media laws to police the newspaper industry, forcing several titles to close.
Shamu said the delay in processing applications for new newspapers was giving the government's detractors a platform for cheap propaganda.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this