Zimbabwe: Newsrooms face “exorbitant” fee increase
On 3 April 2022, the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), with the approval of the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, set the 2022 registration and accreditation fees for media companies and journalists in terms of the Regulations of Statutory Instrument 65 of 2022. The regulations enact a new schedule of fees for the accreditation of journalists (local and foreign) and the registration of media services, including mass and community media services. The regulations further provide for application fees for productions and digital platforms.
Accreditation may assist in ensuring that journalists perform their professional duties with valid accreditation cards and without fear of arrest, harassment or assault. However, concerns have arisen that the increase in fees may affect media freedom. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), a press freedom organisation, notes that the accreditation fees for local journalists working for foreign media houses (USD 150) are “exorbitant and beyond the reach of many,” adding that “these fees are prohibitory in nature and may result in local journalists working for foreign media houses not being able to be accredited at all.”
According to the fee schedule, the accreditation fee for journalists working for local media houses is set at US$20 for first time applicants, and US$15 for renewals; local journalists working for international media organisations will pay a US$50 application fee and US$150 for accreditation. Local media organisations will be charged $2000 to register as a mass media service, or $1000 to renew their registration, while community media organisations will be charged $1000 to register and $800 to renew.
The ZMC has previously proposed contentious accreditation fees for journalists:
- In January 2011, the accreditation fees were hiked, prompting condemnation from the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists, who considered the fees to be “shocking and retributive,” arguing that they “can only make journalists go underground or stop practising.”
- In January 2021, following the publishing of registration and accreditation fees, MISA issued concern at the significant fee increase, cautioning that the “media is facing serious sustainability and viability threats worsened by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
- Most recently in January 2022, the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) stipulated that members of the media would have to apply for additional accreditation in order to cover March’s by-elections, in addition to the annual accreditation fees which journalists are expected to pay. In MISA Zimbabwe’s view, “dual accreditation and the fees in question can be a deterrent for media practitioners to undertake their work without any fear of harassment, exclusion, arrest and detention while covering the elections.”
The accreditation fees come at a time when media freedom is already considered under threat in Zimbabwe, with the Amnesty International Report 2021/22 describing authorities as “increasingly hostile towards people who expressed dissenting views.” At least 15 journalists were detained, arrested or assaulted by security forces during 2021.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].