Zimbabwe media body grants licences to private papers

Image caption, Zimbabwe's independent press have operated under severe restrictions

Licences have been granted to four private daily newspapers in Zimbabwe by a commission set up by the unity government to implement media reforms.

The Zimbabwean media is currently dominated by state-run newspapers.

One of the licences has been granted to the Daily News, a paper critical of President Robert Mugabe, which was closed down in 2003.

Mr Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have been in a power-sharing government since 2008.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) was set up in December 2009 under the terms of the power-sharing deal to spearhead media reforms, including the licensing of new press, radio and TV outlets.

Currently, the independent press in Zimbabwe is subject to severe restrictions.

"We are here to allow Zimbabweans access to media," Reuters news agency quotes ZMC's chairman Godfrey Majonga as saying.

In 2002, Mr Mugabe introduced tough media laws requiring journalists and newspapers to register with the government and imposing prison sentences should they fail to do so. Journalists could also be sent to prison for "publishing false news".

Journalists at the privately owned Daily News were arrested and the paper's printing press was bombed before the publication was finally shut down in 2003.

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