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Zimbabwe's Media Commission Seeks Gov't Assistance to Ban Foreign Publications

The Zimbabwe Media Commission has approached the information ministry and other government departments to help facilitate the banning of foreign publications it says have failed to register to continue operating in the country.

Information secretary George Charamba told the state-controlled Herald newspaper the ZMC had notified his office of its decision to have the publications, among them the United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean, and South African newspapers The Sunday Times and the Mail and Guardian, banned for failing to regularize their operations in Zimbabwe

He said the commission sought his ministry's advice since it can only enforce the law through the assistance of relevant government ministries.

The commission is also seeking support from the finance and home affairs ministries to help stop the papers from circulating in the country, accusing the foreign newspapers for continuing to sell in the country without following a 2010 directive to register with the commission.

Under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, all foreign publications must set up local bureaux for distribution purposes.

Said Charamba: “The Zimbabwe Media Commission Board chairman has since written a letter to the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Webster Shamu to fully advise him on their resolution to stop the circulation of foreign publications who were failing to comply with the law."

“We expect this to be implemented any time soon since the ZMC board is constitutionally formulated.These foreign publications are being extremely irresponsible as corporate citizens."

Exiled publisher Wilf Mbanga told VOA that due to pressure to remain circulating his Zimbabwean newspaper in the country, he has applied for a publishing license.

“We have now set up a Trust inside Zimbabwe and we have applied to publish from Zimbabwean soil and print from Harare,” said Mbanga. “We didn’t have a choice. They were either going to close us down because we hadn’t applied or we could apply and continue to exist. So we really didn’t have an option.”

But Mbanga said he was not going to Zimbabwe because “there is still a warrant for my arrest and until that is sorted I won’t even consider going back.”

Andrew Moyse director of the Media Monitoring Project said the move is meant to stifle the foreign press in the country.

"The law had not envisaged this situation arising and they are having trouble trying to find the clause that will allow them to shut down these newspapers," said Moyse "It's not that they must comply with the law, I don't think the law is there."