World press organizations demand repeal of taxes

HARARE - The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) this week wrote to Robert Mugabe calling on him to repeal to immediately a punitive "luxury" tax on newspapers that are imported into Zimbabwe.

The WAN and WEF said the punitive tax regime was preventing independent newspapers such as The Zimbabwean from reaching their audience.

The tax was imposed in early June in the run-up to the widely condemned presidential election won by Mugabe after his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai quit the race in the face of escalating violence against his supporters.

The tax aimed at newspapers printed in South Africa such as The Zimbabwean, the Mail and Guardian, and the Sunday Times and is targeted to limit the circulation of the publications.

“Restricting access to information by punitive taxation constitutes a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the Paris-based WAN and WEF, which represent 18,000 newspapers world-wide, said in a letter to Mugabe.

The two organizations called on Mugabe to remove the illegal luxury tax on foreign publications and to end state intimidation of the independent media. The tax has already led to the suspension of The Zimbabwean on Sunday and the reduction in print run of The Zimbabwean from 200,000 copies a week to 60,000 – greatly diminishing access to information on the part of the majority of Zimbabweans.

In June alone The Zimbabwean was forced to pay SAR500,000 (£37,000) in punitive duties.

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