PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday 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.
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 there have been â€œsignificant improvements in media freedomsâ€ in the country.
â€œThe recent media conference recommended that Aippa be repealed and that ZBC and Zimpapers be transformed into genuine public media as opposed to state media,â€ Tsvangirai said. â€œIn light of this, it should also be noted that as of January 11 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.â€
The prime minister said parliamentâ€™s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders was working to set up the new media commission â€œas soon as possibleâ€ 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.
Tsvangiraiâ€™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 Committeeâ€™s call for the return and registration of foreign-based broadcasters and journalists in line with Global Political Agreement policy.
â€œIn 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,â€ read the letter to Shamu. â€œWe also appeal for the free
entry and movement of foreign correspondents.â€
The letter was signed by the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard chief executive Raphael Khumalo and the groupâ€™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 yesterday yet to respond to the letter and efforts to get a comment from him were fruitless as he was not answering his mobile phone.
BY NQOBILE BHEBHE