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Steep Rise In Official Fees Threatens Zimbabwe Independent Media

Zimbabwean journalists and media advocates have voiced outrage at steep increases in the fees the country's Media and Information Commission charges for registration, expressing concern that the cost will further stifle local independent media.

Under the new fee structure, local journalists attached to a news organization will pay Z$25,000 or US$100 at the official exchange rate (or closer to US$10 at the parallel rate) to register for a year. Freelance journalists face a Z$35,000 fee, while foreign journalists will be obliged to pay the MIC US$1,500 for a temporary permit.

Journalists who failed to register before expiration of a December 31 deadline face a late fee of Z$10,000 for each day they remain unlicensed.

The accreditation fees are imposed under the country's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, widely seen as a tool for curtailing press freedoms.

Advocacy officer Abel Chikomo of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe called the charges ridiculous, telling reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe the fees are simply another means to curtail the flow of information.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists President Matthew Takaona said the high fees could mean the difference between journalists continuing to practice their profession, working under cover, or abandoning their calling altogether.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...