Nelly Bassily | June 14, 2010
The last independent daily newspaper in Zimbabwe (The Daily News) was banned by President Robert Mugabe in 2003. But since President Mugabe formed a power-sharing government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai sixteen months ago, the pressure has been on for him to open up the media. After months of lobbying by journalists, publishing companies, and from within Tsvangirai’s party (the Movement for Democratic Change), the Zimbabwe Media Commission gave five media groups permission to operate.
The five organizations granted licences were: Alpha Media Holdings, Modus Publications, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, Fruitlink Ventures, and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The organizations plan to publish five newspapers – four dailies and the unions’ weekly – that could create as many as 500 jobs. Journalists will automatically be accredited once they are employed by the newspapers. No reporter at any of the approved publications has so far been refused accreditation. Journalists will still be subject to strict legislation, such as the Access to Information Protection and Privacy Act 2002.
The papers are planning to proceed with caution. Barnabas Thodhlana, a former associate editor of the Daily News on Sunday as well as the founding editor of NewsDay, warns, “The same actors who banned The Daily News are still in government and will do anything to make sure journalists don’t exercise their watchdog status on the government. There is need for extreme professional conduct on the part of journalists. They need to check and check again their facts to avoid publishing falsehoods.”
Other commentators believe that the Zimbabwe economy can’t sustain so many newspapers. There may not be enough customers or advertisers. But many are optimistic. Alpha Media chief executive officer Raphael Khumalo stated, “Obviously these are exciting developments. What we have been waiting to do in two years we are now able to do immediately. It is our wish to be able to report on issues that affect Zimbabweans in the townships and in the rural areas.”
Although the Zimbabwe Media Commission is responsible for registration of all media, it is the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) which allocates wavelengths to aspiring broadcasters. There is currently a dispute regarding appointment of BAZ board members. It is unlikely radio licences will be granted before the dispute is resolved.
These notes have been compiled from various sources, where you can read more about the opening up of the media in Zimbabwe: