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Zimbabwe Licenses More Private Newspapers

Zimbabwe has licensed two more private newspapers, keeping alive the agenda of opening up the media space that has largely been preserved for state publications loyal to President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.

The Zimbabwean, which will publish weekly and owned by UK-based veteran journalist Wilf Mbanga, and The Observer, a daily, were granted licenses this week by the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

Chairman of The Zimbabwean publishers John Makumbe told VOA on Tuesday that they no longer feared victimization by the state as they are now operating legally.

Mbanga currently publishes two weeklies - The Zimbabwean and The Zimbabwean on Sunday that are shipped into the country.

In 2008, a truck delivering The Zimbabwean newspapers was hijacked and burnt by unknown assailants, who are still on the loose.

The government also hiked duty on foreign newspapers circulating in Zimbabwe, a move that was seen as the state’s attempt to muzzle the press.

Zimbabwe Media Commission chairperson Godfrey Majonga said his commission is happy to play a part in liberalizing the press.

Barnabas Thodlana, editor of The Observer said the newspaper will hit the streets early next month, first as a weekly and then later as a daily.

A couple of publications have been registered since the formation of the unity government in 2009 though the electronic media remains in the hands of Mugabe and his allies.