Zanu-PF has shown its intentions with regard to the media by bringing back some of the most notorious "media hangmen" into positions of power, writes Alex Bell for SW Radio Africa.

Alex Bell writes for SW Radio Africa:

Zanu PF has revealed its carefully played hand on the future of the media in Zimbabwe, with the return of the country's most notorious media 'hangmen' into the government.

The party's clarification that it remains committed to keeping the media in a hard-line stranglehold was laid out for all to see last week, with the announced return of Tafataona Mahoso and Jonathan Moyo. Mahoso, the former head of the now-defunct Media and Information Commission, which saw the forced closure of independent newspapers such as the Daily News, was announced last week as the new head of the Broadcasting Authority. The appointment by Information Minister Webster Shamu, who has also appointed eight former senior military officials to six boards, has been slammed by media rights organisations and the MDC as a threat to any hope of media freedom in the country.

A further threat is the return of Moyo, who was readmitted to ZANU PF by the party Politburo last Thursday. The former information minister was responsible for crafting some of ZANU PF regime's most repressive media laws, including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which saw several newspapers being banned, as well as the arrest and exile of many journalists. He was also responsible for the forced closure of Zimbabwe's first independent radio station, Capital Radio.

Moyo was unceremoniously kicked out of ZANU PF after he was fingered as the architect of the so-called 'Tsholotsho Declaration' in November 2004, which sought to plot ZANU PF leadership changes.

But his return to ZANU PF has long been speculated and it was revealed last month that he had approached the party about his re-admittance as a member. Last week Ephraim Masawi, the party deputy spokesman, told reporters that the Politburo had unanimously endorsed Moyo's readmission.

"The Politburo considered the application by Professor Jonathan Moyo to rejoin ZANU PF which was unanimously endorsed," Masawi said.

While it is not yet known what kind of role Moyo will play in the government, his past actions within ZANU PF have left media groups and journalists worried. The pairing of Moyo and Mahoso will be a lethal combination for the country's media, which had hoped that critically needed reform under the unity government, was on its way. But the bluff by ZANU PF that it was committed to media freedom is now clearly evident, as is the party's unilateral control in the coalition formation with the MDC.

 This column was first published on SW Radio Africa's website on 5 October 2009.