Foreign newspapers to be banned

HARARE – Zimbabwe's media regulator has roped in the police to stop foreign newspapers, that have no offices in the country, from circulating.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), appointed to drive media reforms agreed to by the country’s power-sharing government, said it was enlisting the services of the police because the newspapers had defied calls to register.

Titles that could be affected include the Sunday Times, Mail and Guardian, Business Day and Financial Mail which are published in South Africa as well as The Zimbabwean which is published in the United Kingdom.

ZMC chairperson Godfrey Majonga said the publications should register in Zimbabwe as soon as possible before the titles are stopped from coming into the country.

“The Zimbabwe Media Commission has therefore resolved to appeal to the relevant law enforcement authorities to bar affected papers from entrance into and circulation within Zimbabwe until they comply with Zimbabwe’s laws,” said Majonga.

He said people offended or affected by news appearing in the papers had been going to the commission seeking redress or information, “but neither the publications nor their journalists appear in our registers”.

Citing a ZMC board decision made in July 2010, Majonga said in a statement yesterday the ZMC was inviting all foreign publications, whose primary reportage was focused on Zimbabwe and who employed journalists in the country either to relocate here and register in terms of Section 66 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) or to obtain permission to operate an office of a foreign mass media service in terms of Section 90 of Aippa.

Majonga cited the Sunday Times of South Africa as an example.

The paper, he said, had informed the ZMC in October 2010 about its willingness to register, but has still not done so.

“However, we regret to report that one year and half since our reminder to the affected mass media services to comply with Zimbabwe’s laws by regularising their status and that of all journalists working for them — the same papers and journalists are operating exactly as they were doing a year ago and they have not bothered to approach the commission again or to return the forms and invoices they collected in 2010,” Majonga said. – Daily News

“Such defiance hinders the work of the commission.”

ZMC was formed as part of a political pact that also directed the licensing of the Daily News, which had been banned by President Robert Mugabe’s previous Zanu PF government.

Under the previous dispensation, a state-appointed body employed tough media laws to clampdown on the newspaper industry, forcing at least four titles to close.

The ZMC has licensed several newspaper titles, but the inclusive government has failed to unshackle Zanu PF’s control of the electronic media, with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation continuing to enjoy monopoly on the airwaves.