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Foreign journalists welcome to do their job, says PM

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced last week that foreign journalists are free to report from Zimbabwe, where many have previously been banned and others arrested and harassed, report the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and news reports.

At a Harare press conference on 21 May, Tsvangirai, the veteran opposition leader who formed a coalition with President Robert Mugabe in February, deplored the recent arrests of independent journalists and lawyers. He said a new commission would be formed to "facilitate the opening up of media space."

While foreign media houses such as the BBC were banned from entering the country, others have been deterred by the stringent licensing and accreditation fees.

Foreign news organisations need to pay more than US$30,000 for permission to operate, while local journalists working for foreign media organisations were made to pay US$4,000.

Tsvangirai said both local and foreign journalists and media organisations are no longer legally obliged to apply for accreditation until a new media commission is in place.

The pronouncement comes after Zimbabwe media editors and publishers from eight media houses and associations wrote a letter to the Minister for Media, Information and Publicity calling for the lifting of the remaining restrictions on journalists. In the letter, the editors and publishers also appealed for a moratorium on the licensing process and the high taxes on imported newspapers.

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