Three independent dailies allowed to resume publishing after almost seven years of censorship
"The decision to grant licences to these three newspapers is a major advance for a country that has been without independent daily newspapers for more than six years," Reporters Without Borders said. "Justice has been rendered to the journalists who were forced to remain silent for such a long time, and to the Zimbabwean people, who had access only to government-controlled news."
The press freedom organisation added: "We hope the authorities will now issue these licences and allow these newspapers to work freely. We call on the government to go further by quickly amending the media laws."
"NewsDay" managing editor Moses Mudzwiti told Reporters Without Borders he was "very happy" with the announcement. "We have been waiting for this for nearly two years and we still cannot quite believe it, it's so good. We should officially obtain our licence today or tomorrow and we envisage publishing daily within 10 days, by the start of June."
Zimbabwe Media Council chairperson Godfrey Majonga announced that licences would be granted to all the privately-owned newspapers that had applied for them. They include three independent dailies - "The Daily News", owned by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ); "NewsDay", owned by Alpha Media, which already publishes the weeklies "The Zimbabwe Independent" and "The Standard"; and "The Daily Gazette", owned by Modus Publications, which publishes "The Financial Gazette".
A licence is also to be given to a fourth daily, "The Mail", owned by Fruitlink, a company linked to the Youth Empowerment Fund, which supports President Robert Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF.
ANZ also plans to resume publishing its weekly, "The Daily News on Sunday", while "The Worker", a monthly published by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, will become a weekly.
"The Daily News", which received the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France press freedom prize in December 2003, has been banned since 12 September 2003.
Reporters Without Borders made a special trip to Harare from 20 to 23 March to support the independent media's efforts to obtain licences, visiting the closed newspapers and meeting several government officials including Jameson Timba, who is the deputy minister of media and information and an adviser to the prime minister.
During the trip, the press freedom organisation urged the government to quickly foster a more favourable climate for free expression by privately-owned independent newspapers. It also urged the ZMC to immediately issue licences to newspapers that requested them.