Positive step for press freedom in Zimbabwe?

Following the new power sharing deal in Zimbabwe between longtime ruler Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the country could see the return of previously banned media outlets, reports African Press Agency.

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was used the past to shut down at least four private newspapers, and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) used to close at least two private television stations in 2001, leading to the creation of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. The BAZ was created to process applications for licenses by non-state broadcasters, but no licenses have been awarded since its creation.

The government has pledged the immediate processing of all applications, and has also crimianlised the use of hate language that may incite political intolerance and ethnic hatred.

This move could also see western news organisations such as the Reuters, BBC and Sky News allowed back into the country, many of whom used local journalists during the recent elections to help them gain access.

The Zimbabwe Civic Action Support Group has called for the re-registration of independent newspaper The Daily News, which was shut down in 2003.

It said: “We further emphasize that the parties cannot call on the external media run by Zimbabweans to stop providing the only independent sources of news and information without first creating and ensuring an enabling environment and guaranteeing the safe return and freedom from persecution of our Zimbabwean colleagues from the Diaspora, as well as their freedom to immediately resume their independent broadcasts from within Zimbabwe.”

However, Former Daily News reporter Sandra Nyaira feels that newspapers were overlooked in the new agreement.

She said: “The leaders totally ignore the newspaper sector in their agreement. For this new deal to work…we need a media that is independent, that seeks to unite Zimbabweans more than divide and polarise them.”

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