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Government imposes steep new fees on foreign media

(MISA/IFEX) - The government has gazetted steep new fees under the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The move will see foreign-based media houses fork out more than US$30,000 in application and permission to operate fees.

Foreign media organisations wishing to establish a representative office in Zimbabwe will pay an application fee of US$10,000 and a further US$20,000 and US$2,000 in permission to operate and permit administration fees, respectively.

Local journalists working for foreign media organisations will pay US$1,000 and US$3,000 in individual application and accreditation fees.

Temporary accreditation for a foreign journalist has been fixed at US$1,500. This contrasts sharply with the complimentary accreditation and administration fees for journalists from within and outside of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which are pegged at US$150 and US$200 respectively.

MISA-Zimbabwe views these prohibitively steep fees as designed to discourage and frustrate foreign news organisations and local journalists working for them from operating in Zimbabwe, given the government's hostility to the media. While the fees for local media organisations are significantly lower - pegged at Z$10 billion (approx. US$1), Z$30 billion (approx. US$3) and Z$20 billion (approx. US$2) in application, registration and renewal of registration fees, respectively - these should be viewed in the context of an already constricted media environment and the harsh economic conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe.

Journalists working for local organisations as well as local freelance journalists will also face new fees under the law.

The fees were gazetted in the absence of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), the statutory media regulatory body which is to be the successor to the Media and Information Commission (MIC). The body will be tasked with the functions of media registration and regulation, and accreditation of journalists. The ZMC, however, remains to be constituted following the amendments to AIPPA, the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which were signed into law by President Robert Mugabe on 11 January 2008.

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