ZMC Sets Police Against Foreign Newspapers

ZMC chairperson Godfrey Majonga reported the Sunday Times and The Zimbabwean newspaper to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to bar the newspapers from entering and circulating in the country because they were not registered with the media regulatory body.

In an affidavit deposed to police at Harare Central police station, Majonga accused the Sunday Times and other foreign newspapers of carrying out newsgathering in the country without registration and licensing in contravention of the country’s obnoxious media laws.

Majonga complained to the police that journalists working for the Sunday Times were using false names and “do not respect the laws of the land.”

“The ZMC is charges with the national constitutional responsibility to keep an accurate register of all mass media services operating in Zimbabwe and all journalists carrying out newsgathering in Zimbabwe at anytime. Those registers must be accurate and up to date. The ways in which the Sunday Times, The Zimbabwean and their reporters have operated hinder the proper operations of the Commission.

Other authorities, such as the Department of Immigration, rely on such information in order also to meet their mandate. The ways in which the Sunday Times and The Zimbabwean operate make it impossible for the ZMC to create and keep accurate registers in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe,” Majonga wrote in his affidavit to the police, which was seen by Radio VOP.

Majonga also reported Munn Marketing, a subsidiary of Alpha Media Holdings and the distributors of the Sunday Times to the police for allegedly playing the role of publisher of the South African weekly.

The ZMC boss charged that Munn Marketing had collected some registration forms on behalf of the Sunday Times from its offices but the newspaper had not registered with the media policing body.

“This raises the question whether or not the penalties for operating a mass media service without registration, as outlined in Section 72, should apply. The address for Munn Marketing is stand 225, Harrow road Masasa, Unit 3 and 4 Beverley east. I make this statement consciously, believing the same to be true,” reads part of Majonga’s affidavit.

The ZMC first singled out the Sunday Times before targeting other newspapers circulating in the country ahead of planned elections early in February, in the clearest sign that President Robert Mugabe and some Zanu (PF) officials are rattled by the newspaper’s coverage of local issues. The ZMC’s predecessor, the Media Information Commission led by media hangman Tafataona Mahoso presided over the shutdown of several newspaper titles such as the Daily News, the Tribune and Weekly Times.

Meanwhile Radio VOP and other exiled Zimbabwe radio stations continues to have constant and loyal audience as compared to the local radio stations whose listenership fluctuates, a research by Zimbabwe All Media Products Survey (ZAMPS) has revealed.

This is despite the radio stations being on shortwave which sometimes are subjected to jamming by authorities who continue to deny them operating licences.

In an interview with Radio VOP in Harare on Tuesday on the sidelines of Zimbabwe All Media Products Survey (ZAMPS)’s 4th quarter which had a bias towards the rural areas, Research Board International’s Managing Director Ellington Kamba, said extra-terrestrial radio stations such as Radio VOP and Studio 7 had managed to nurture and maintain a loyal listenership.

“What we have realised during the survey is that Radio VOP and other external radio stations have a loyal listenership that is consistent and does not fluctuate like other local radio stations whose audience keeps changing. Yes penetration is there. They have their listeners though few as compared to local radio stations for obvious reasons such as frequencies and time of broadcasting which continue to be constant meaning that they have nurtured their own audiences,” said Kamba.

Kamba said the same applies to regional weekly newspapers like The Zimbabwean and the Sunday Times.

Radio VOP was last year in November denied operating licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. The BAZ board ruled that Radio VOP had failed to impress them during public hearings held to consider licensing them.

It has however petitioned the Administrative Court seeking an order to set aside the BAZ board’s order and for the broadcasting authority to re-determine the media house’s application for a commercial radio licence.