news blockZimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has ordered both local and foreign journalists, as well media houses not to pay registration fees until a new media body has been constituted, writes a correspondent.

His directive comes against a background of letter of complaint by the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINAEF) which noted continued harassment and demands for accreditation by the now defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC).

The Zimbabwe media editors and publishers wrote a letter to the Media, Information and Publicity Minister , Webster Shamu, calling for the lifting of the remaining restrictions on journalists seeking to return home in line with the Global Political Agreement.

In the letter, the editors and the publishers also appealed for a moratorium on the process of licensing of newspapers and lifting of high taxes on imported newspapers.

The letter was signed by representatives of theĀ  Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (Daily News and Daily News On Sunday), The Worker, Community Newspapers Association in Zimbabwe, The Zimbabwean, the Zimbabwe Times, ZimOnline, Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard.

In January 2009, before the formation of an inclusive government, the government of President Robert Mugabe set sharp application and registration fees that required foreign-based media houses to part withmore than R245 000in application and operation fees.

Local journalists working for foreign media organisations would be required to pay R 8450 and R27 000 as individual application and accreditation fees respectively. It also fixed temporary accreditation for a foreign journalists at R13 750.

However, Tsvangirai, told journalists at a briefing that the January 2008 amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) disbanded the MIC, which was responsible for the accreditation and licensing of journalists and media houses.

The MIC, under Section 38 of AIPPA, would be replaced by the yet to be constitutedĀ  Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).

It means until the ZMC is constituted, there is no legal body that is responsible for the accreditation and registration of journalists and media houses.

Tsvangirai, however, revealedĀ  that Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders is working on setting up the new media commission.

Under the amended AIPPA, the ZMC shall have a chairperson and 8 other members appointed by the President from a list of not fewer than 12 nominees submitted by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

Meanwhile, the trial of The Chronicle editor, Brezhnev Malaba and reporter Nduduzo Tshuma who are facing defamation charges has been postponed to 21 July 2009.

Bulawayo Magistrate John Masimba referred the matter to 21 July 2009 after the police officer commanding Matebeleland North, Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai, failed to turn up in court.

The two Chronicle staffers are jointly charged with the Zimpapers Bulawayo branch general manager, Sithembile Ncube court over a story that was published in their paper in February alleging that the police were involved in a major maize scandal at the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

Malaba and Tshuma become the first state journalists to be charged under any of the repressive media laws of Zimbabwe.