From The Economist
Independent newspapers are poised to come back
FOR years, newspaper readers in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, have had their daily fare limited to the Herald, a state-controlled propaganda sheet that can be relied on to praise President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, often in the most turgid prose. This week a new organ was added to their choice with the launch ofH-Metro, a tabloid focusing on entertainment and sports. But it is part of the same Zimpapers stable. Despite promises to free the press as part of a power-sharing agreement struck by Mr Mugabe and the rival Movement for Democratic Change, the country still lacks an independent daily.
Several publishers are waiting impatiently in the wings. Among them are Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, which used to publish theDaily News until it was banned by Mr Mugabe in 2003 after its presses were blown up in 2001, and Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwe-born former chief executive of South Africa’s M&G Media group, who is setting up a competitor, calledNewsday. Even the weeklyFinancial Gazette, widely believed to be owned by Mr Mugabe’s ridiculed central-bank governor, Gideon Gono, may be planning a daily version. But none has yet been launched, because the Zimbabwe Media Commission has yet to be set up as agreed under the power-sharing deal.
Some say the commission may start licensing new (or old) publications next month. But Mr Mugabe is plainly loth to give rein to a free press. Radio and television are entirely in state hands, yet Zanu-PF must pay lip service to the unity agreement. Mr Ncube says H-Metro has been rushed into print to try to seize the market ahead of its inevitable liberalisation. “They are panicking,” he says.