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Ban threat against foreign newspapers
August 30, 2011

Foreign newspapers circulating in Zimbabwe risk being banned if they fail to register with the statutory Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) in terms of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

The ZMC is a statutory body that registers and licenses media houses and journalists working in Zimbabwe against the principles of media self-regulation as stipulated in terms of the Banjul Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.

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 and Zimbabwean on Sunday which are published by United Kingdom based Zimbabwean journalist Wilf Mbanga.

ZMC chairperson Godfrey Majonga said the publications should register in Zimbabwe as soon as possible. "We will use the police to confiscate all copies until the newspapers abide by what we want," said Majonga on 26 August 2011.

"They are supposed to remit 0.01 percent of their earnings to ZMC if they are operating in Zimbabwe. They are printed outside the country, don't import newsprint or create employment."

In terms of the repressive AIPPA, the responsible Minister of Information has absolute discretion to exempt for registration all mass media service providers who are generally prohibited from owning media organizations in Zimbabwe.

MISA-Zimbabwe position

The threat will have a negative impact on the citizens' right to access diverse information as it will push the cover prices of foreign newspapers at a time when Zimbabweans are struggling to make ends meet.

The newspapers in question will become a luxury that only the elite will have access to depriving the generality of Zimbabweans the right to make informed choices and decisions on matters that affect their daily lives.

We therefore urge the ZMC and the responsible minister to take into consideration the peculiar situation that Zimbabwean citizens face regarding access to information by ensuring that the policies and resolutions they come up with promote the emergence of an environment in which citizens have increased and not diminished access to diverse sources of information.

Visit the MISA-Zimbabwe fact sheet

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