The Zimbabwe government has increased registration fees for journalists and media organizations warning that failure to comply will lead to prosecution.
Foreign media outlets are now required to pay a US$6,000 registration fee, a significant increase from US$2,500 previously.
Zimbabwean journalists working for the foreign press are required to pay an accreditation fee of US$400 dollars, compared with US$100 before. Local media organizations must pay US$500 more than previously for new registrations and renewals.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission said the deadline for payment is Friday and warned it is a criminal offense to operate without a license.
The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists condemned the new fee structure as "shocking and retributive", saying it will force journalists to go underground.
Nhlanhla Ngwenya, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe said the new fee structure runs counter to the spirit of the 2008 Global Political Agreement which called for the government to liberalize the country's media environment.
Signature of the GPA in 2008 following 2008 elections marred by violence set the stage for the formation in February 2009 of the current government of national unity. But the agenda of proposed reforms, media among them, has not been fulfilled.
Though the Zimbabwe Media Commission was reformed in early 2010, replacing the often repressive Media and Information Commission, the latter commission's chairman, Tafataona Mahoso, resurfaced as chief executive of the new media panel.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission has also been relatively strapped for funds to pursue its mandate of fostering greater diversity in the media environment. And in any case, the politically sensitive broadcast sector remains beyond its purview with licensing the prerogative of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe
Particularly revealing were recent comments by George Charamba, permanent secretary of the Information Ministry and spokesman for President Robert Mugabe, who said new broadcasters could not be licensed until the means were in place to monitor them.