THE licensing of private newspapers, television and radio stations may have to wait a long time after George Charamba, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Publicity, revealed that the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) will only be set up when all other commissions are formed, writes Violet Gonda for SW Radio Africa.

Addressing journalists at a media workshop organised by UNICEF, the government spin doctor also threatened newspaper publications with arrest, if they circulated their papers without a licence. The main target was Newsday, a new daily newspaper proposed by the Zimbabwe Independent Group.

Newsday editor Barnabas Thondhlana told SW Radio Africa: “He essentially said if we, as Newsday, would come on the market before we got a licence then he would instruct the Attorney General’s office to send the police to deal with this stranger who was on the streets of Zimbabwe.”

“I was in utter shock and was surprised because I had asked Mr Charamba how Zimpapers were able to launch a new newspaper recently called the H-Metro without a licence.” But Charamba told the editors that the new state owned paper had been given a licence way back, by the defunct Media and Information Council led by Dr Tafataona Mahoso. Thondhlana said the editor-in-chief of the Zimpapers Group, Pikirayi Deketeke, shocked the participants when he revealed that the group had issued a number of newspaper licences, which are presently lying dormant.

According to Zimbabwean regulations a publication automatically loses its licence if it is not used within six months. Thondhlana added: “And for Charamba to say H-Metro had been licensed, we questioned how, because the MIC was no longer in existence in the past six months.”

“How is H-Metro operating without a licence but any other newspaper which wants to operate without a licence, Charamba will send the police after them?”

Click here to read the full report, posted on SW Radio Africa's website.