The chairman of the Zimbabwe Media Commission said Thursday that his organization will issue licenses early next week the five newspapers that received approval yesterday to launch publications or expand their activities.
They include the Daily News, shut down in 2003 by the repressive Media and Information Commission, Newsday, from Alpha Media Holdings (formerly ZimInd Publishers) which puts out the Standard and Independent weeklies, the Daily Gazette from Modus Publications and the Mail to be funded by the Youth Empowerment Fund. A monthly published by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions received authorization to step up to a weekly schedule.
Media Commission Chairman Godfrey Majonga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye that the five companies can start printing and selling their papers as soon as they receive their licenses.
Alpha Media HOldings Chief Executive Officer Raphael Khumalo told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that his company paid a US$1,500 fee and expects certification very shortly, saying Newsday will hit the streets in 10 days.
The Media Commission's first issuance of licenses was positively viewed by media experts who cautioned however that restrictive media laws – in particular the notorious Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act - must be repealed so journalists can pursue their profession without fear of official repercussions.
While acknowledging that adding newspapers is a step forward, media observers worried that the new publications could find the current economic environment challenging, and that new papers might struggle to survive.
For perspective, VOA reporter Patience Rusere turned to communications lecturer Winston Mano of the University of Westminster in England, and Last Moyo, a journalism lecturer at Witwatersrand University in South Africa.
Mano says media plurality is good for democracy – but the business can be a tough one.