The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has banned foreign newspapers that are not registered in Zimbabwe, saying they are being distributed illegally.
In a statement yesterday, ZMC chairman Godfrey Majonga said the decision was taken after the papers ignored calls to register in terms of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The ban is likely to affect newspapers such as the UK-based The Zimbabwean and popular South African newspapers such as Sunday Times and Mail&Guardian.
Majonga said they had since appealed to police to stop the entry and circulation of the newspapers.
We regret to report that one year-and-a-half since our reminder to the affected mass media services to comply with Zimbabwes laws by regularising their status and that of all journalists working for them, the same papers. . . have not bothered to approach the commission, he said.
Such defiance hinders the work of the commission.
But the Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe chapter and the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) immediately condemned the ban.
Tabani Moyo, the Misa advocacy officer, said it was a throwback to the stone-age era where the government sought to stifle freedom of expression through unnecessary policing of the media.
VMCZ executive director Takura Zhangazha said it was unfortunate that ZMC was relying on an undemocratic law to ban the foreign publications.
Andrew Moyse of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe accused ZMC of relying on repressive laws to silence important sources of information.
Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu declined to comment on the matter. ZMC was set up after the signing of the Global Political Agreement following concerns the previous Zanu PF administration stifled media freedom.