Skepticism greets Zimpapers vow to be non-partisan

The publishers of the state’s mouthpiece Herald newspaper on Thursday vowed to be non-partisan if it succeeds in getting a commercial radio licence.

Zimpapers, which publishes the Herald, the weekly Sunday Mail, the Sunday News, the Chronicle and others, appeared before the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) at a public hearing on Thursday. The group is bidding as the Zimpapers Talk Radio (ZTR) project and is one of four applicants who have been shortlisted to receive a commercial radio licence.

ZTR Board of Directors member Tapuwa Mandimutsira told the Tafataona Mahoso chaired BAZ on Thursday they will be an autonomous entity that will “bring a distinct product to the market”. He vowed that if granted a licence, ZTR will break away from the “patent bias” towards Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF demonstrated in its papers.

“The board of directors acknowledges the responsibility of journalists, artists and photographers to report, comment on affairs of city, state, nation and the world fairly and accurately regardless of any commercial, personal or political interests including those of any share holder, director, manager, editor or staff member,” said Mandimutsira.

But SW Radio Africa’s Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa reported on Thursday that most people are skeptical that this can be achieved. He explained there is the widespread belief that “the propaganda empire is going to be expanded should they get a licence.”

The list of Zimpapers directors include Alexander Kanengoni, a former broadcaster and author who is a known Mugabe supporter; Dr Munyaradzi Kereke, a chief advisor to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono who was also accused of raping 10 year old girl in 2010; Dr Charles Utete, one of Mugabe's known close allies and former Chief Secretary to the ZANU PF Cabinet; and Delma Lupepe, a businessman who is considered one of the Zimabbwe’s richest men who has benefited from ZANU PF contracts.

The Zimpapers public hearing is the second of the four shortlisted candidates to appear before a public hearing. The next public hearing is that of AB Communications next Tuesday 25th October while Radio VOP will appear Thursday October 27th. The hearings are taking place at the Jacaranda Room at Rainbow Towers in Harare and the public are urged to attend.

Muchemwa explained that the public reaction to the hearings has been limited, because there has been almost no advertising apart from the adverts in the state media. He explained that adverts have only appeared in the Herald, the Chronicle and on ZBC radio.

“There are lots of questions about why no one is being told about this. It might have been done intentionally to keep the public opinion away from this important process,” Muchemwa said.

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