Zimbabwe passes law to license journalists

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The Independent Online

Journalists expressed outrage yesterday over a new law giving the Zimbawean government the power to determine who will work as a journalist.

Journalists expressed outrage yesterday over a new law giving the Zimbawean government the power to determine who will work as a journalist.

The law is seen as tightening the government's grip on the media ahead of a crunch presidential election next year.

Under the new Access to Information and Protection of Privacy bill, journalists will be issued with one-year renewable licences for them to work in Zimbabwe. The licences will be issued only to Zimbabwean citizens who meet the criteria prescribed by the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo. He will also have the power to withdraw the licences from "offending journalists".

Although the full criteria for qualifying for a licence is yet to be disclosed, the media fraternity in Harare said it was clear that the government was desperate to weed out of the profession critical journalists.

Journalists who write stories that will "discredit people on the basis of sex, race, age, nationality, language, religion, profession, place of residence and work and political conviction" will be fined Z$100,000 (about £1,250) or jailed for two years.

Sydney Masamvu, an official with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, said: "The only good thing about the bill is that it does help foreign governments understand our repeated arguments that Zimbabwe is now effectively under fascist rule. Even Ian Smith or successive apartheid governments in South Africa did not go to this extent to muzzle the media."

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