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Zimbabwe's Media Commission Moves to Ban Foreign Newspapers

The commission says a number of foreign newspapers, especially from South Africa, have failed to comply with a 2010 directive to register and continue circulating illegally

The commission tasked with licensing Zimbabwean newspapers is pushing a ban on foreign publications not registered to operate in the country in a move critics see as signaling the beginning of a media blitz by government ahead of possible elections this year.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission says a number of foreign newspapers continue to circulate in the country though they failed to comply with a 2010 directive to register.

Such papers include the Zimbabwean, produced by exiles in the United Kingdom, the Sunday Times, The Mail&Guardian and Business Day - all South African newspapers.

In a statement, the media commission said it will appeal to relevant law-enforcement authorities to block these publications from entering Zimbabwe until they abide by the law.

Under Zimbabwe's high-handed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, foreign newspapers must register with the commission, and also set up local bureaux for distribution purposes.

Andrew Moyse, director of the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe told VOA the move by the media commission is a clear attack on press freedom and the Global Political Agreement underpinning the inclusive government.

Moyse accused the government using a loophole in the protection of privacy legislation to crackdown on media houses that have been critical of President Robert Mugabe's rule.

Meanwhile, KISS-FM, an unsuccessful applicant for one of two commercial radio licenses issued last year by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has since withdrawn its appeal of the decision in the Administrative Court.

Officials of the aspiring station say with the media landscape changing and "the innovation of new broadcasting outlets in the digital platform, KISS-FM made a calculated decision, and instead, will position itself to launch through a different medium."