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Prime Minister says no legal obligation for media to register until commission is formed

(MISA/IFEX) - On 21 May 2009, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said there is presently no legal obligation for local or foreign journalists and media houses to apply for accreditation until the Zimbabwe Media Commission is established, the "Zimbabwe Independent" reports.

Addressing a press conference in the capital, Tsvangirai fell short of saying media organisations may start new newspapers without registration. He said since the formation of the inclusive government in February 2009 there have been "significant improvements in media freedoms" in the country.

"The recent media conference recommended that AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) be repealed and that ZBC and Zimpapers be transformed into genuine public media as opposed to state media," Tsvangirai said. "In light of this, it should also be noted that as of 11 January 2008, as a result of amendments to AIPPA, the Media and Information Commission (MIC) ceased to exist. Therefore, there is presently no legal obligation for foreign or local journalists, media houses or news agencies to apply for accreditation until the (Zimbabwe) Media Commission is established and a new framework put in place."

The prime minister said parliament's Committee on Standing Rules and Orders was working to set up the new media commission "as soon as possible" to facilitate the opening up of media space.

The MIC headed by Tafataona Mahoso was responsible for accrediting and licensing journalists and media houses. The commission banned four newspapers, the "Daily News", the "Daily News on Sunday", the "Tribune" and the "Weekly Times".

Tsvangirai's pronouncement came nine days after Zimbabwe media editors and publishers met in Johannesburg and called for the lifting of restrictions on journalists seeking to return to the country.

In a letter to Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu, the editors and publishers said they had met to respond to the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee's call for the return and registration of foreign-based broadcasters and journalists in line with Global Political Agreement policy.

"In this regard, we call for the lifting of any remaining restrictions on journalists seeking to return. In addition, we appeal for a moratorium on the process of licensing of newspapers and the lifting of punitive taxes on imported newspapers," read the letter to Shamu. "We also appeal for the free entry and movement of foreign correspondents."

The letter was signed by the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard Chief Executive Raphael Khumalo and the group's projects editor Iden Wetherell, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe directors Jethro Goko and Derek Smail, "The Worker" editor-in-chief Ben Madzimure, Community Newspapers Association in Zimbabwe chairman Wycliff Nyarota and secretary-general Owen Matava, "The Zimbabwean" publisher and editor Wilf Mbanga, the "Zimbabwean Times" managing editor Geoffrey Nyarota and ZimOnline project leader Basildon Peta.

Shamu was by 21 May yet to respond to the letter.

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