Zim journos celebrate media freedom

2009-12-22 10:51

Zimbabwe’s bickering political partners in the inclusive government

have finally set up the Zimbabwe Media Commission paving way for immediate

registration of new media players in the country.

Zimbabwe, for years suffocated by government propaganda, may at

last wake up to a new year in a new media environment.

President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara agreed yesterday on the composition of

the three independent commissions.

Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr. Isaah Sibanda officially

released the news last night after a day of media speculation of the same.

Sibanda said Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara had agreed on the media, electoral

and human rights commissions.

The media commission is the only one whose composition is complete

with its chairperson, former broadcast journalist Godfrey Majonga having been

consulted and accepting the job.

The former newscaster is deputised by former Daily News editor and

National University of Science and Technology lecturer Nqobile Nyathi.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Zimbabwe Human

Rights Commission (ZHRC) were still to have chairpersons announced.

The announcement of the media commission was received with wild

jubilation from journalists who were gathered at the Quill Club, the national

press club in Harare.

“This is the best news I have had in years,” said Moses Mudzwiti,

the acting editor of NewsDay, an independent daily paper that has been awaiting

registration for almost a year. “We are all excited and we can’t wait to go on

the streets. We are already making frantic efforts to see whether we can get

even a provisional licence to allow us to go on the streets while the commission

makes its final set up.”

Freelance journalists, who now make up the majority of journalists

in Zimbabwe, were celebrating the “best Christmas present we have ever

had”.

Most of the freelance journalists lost their full-time jobs when

government shutdown newspapers at the introduction of the draconian media

legislation by former information minister Jonathan Moyo six years ago.

“Look, it has not been easy working as a freelance journalist

without job security and working in perpetual fear,” said Conrad Mwanawanga. The

registration of new papers will see many of us go back to the newsrooms and

there is no greater news than that.”

Zimbabwe churns out at least 200 journalists from media training

institutions every year but, with less than ten newspapers and only one

broadcast organization, the bulk of these trained journos ended up taking up odd

jobs that had nothing to do with their profession – or joining the multitudes of

Zimbabwe’s unemployed.

NewsDay is likely to be the first daily to go on the streets as it

had already set up a team of journalists and had been producing a four-page

paper that was, for fear of prosecution, being inserted in the company’s sister

papers, the Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard.

The Daily News is also expected to come back on the market while

another evening daily from The Financial Gazette stable is also expected to hit

the streets anytime.

Meanwhile new broadcast stations were also expected to go on the

air at the beginning of the new year. Almost a dozen applications had already

been submitted and awaiting approval and licences.


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