Which one is it, Webster?

webster_shamuHARARE -- The new daily tabloid, H-Metro, was launched without a licence in Harare last week. (Pictured: Information minister Webster Shamu)

Information minister Webster Shamu tried to brush off other publishers, such as the Daily News, and Trevor Ncube’s long-awaited News Day, who have been waiting months for licences, by saying that state-owned media were exempt from the rules. H-Metro is owned by Zimbabwe Newspapers. But, in his speech for the H-Metro launch party on Friday 5 September, Shamu said: “Let it be pronounced here that Zimpapers is not a state enterprise. This habit of relating to it as if it’s a parastatal, or as if it is a government department whose behaviour must meet with popular approval is not just mistaken and unlawful, but seems measured to incapacitate and hurt Zimpapers.”

While government owns a majority stake in ZimPapers, the company is listed on the stock exchange and has other shareholders. Media analysts have suggested that if H-Metro is – as the minister claims – not owned by the state, then it needs a permit, without which government would have no option but to shut it down. The same would apply to any other unlicenced mastheads in the ZimPapers stable.

Alternatively, papers waiting for registration including NewsDay and The Daily News, would have a strong case to begin publication immediately, citing H-Metro as a precedent.

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