Zimbabwe Commission To Licence Private Newspapers

President Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, formed a unity government last year following disputed elections which has since implemented some political and economic reforms.

Last December, the two appointed officials nominated by parliament to a commission that will drive media reforms, as part of a political pact which also provided for licensing of newspapers banned by Mugabe’s previous ZANU-PF government.

Under the ZANU-PF administration, a state-appointed body used stringent media laws to police the newspaper industry, forcing several titles to close. Zimbabwe currently has three major private weekly newspapers but no private daily.

“The commission has resolved to expeditiously fulfil its mandate as outlined in the global political agreement and subsequent constitutional amendments,” the media body said in a statement after its first board meeting.

“It has resolved to move with speed to introduce and implement programmes aimed at promoting development of the Zimbabwean media,” the statement said.

The commission, which is considering several applications from potential publishers, said it expected to fulfil its mandate within “the shortest possible time”.

Western donors, whose aid is essential to Zimbabwe’s economic recovery from a decade-long downturn, have demanded broad political reforms before funding the unity government, which says it needs at least $10 billion for reconstruction.

The power-sharing government has been held back by frequent disputes over the pace of reforms, senior state appointments such as those of central bank governor and attorney-general, and sanctions imposed by Western governments on Mugabe and his inner circle. Reuters