HARARE Zimbabwe Wednesday licensed four private daily newspapers, including the banned Daily News, a sign the new unity government is following through on promises to open up the media to non-state run publications.
Media is currently dominated by state-run institutions and foreign journalists are legally barred from long-term employment.
This year the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) was set up to carry out reforms in the sector.
Commission chairman Godfrey Majonga said the media body had received four applications for daily papers, including from the Daily News, which was banned in 2003 and was critical of President Robert Mugabe.
NewsDay, which is owned by local media entrepreneur Trevor Ncube, has also been licensed and the weekly Financial Gazette will also launch a daily.
"The ZMC has accepted to grant all the above registration certificates," Majonga told reporters. "We are here to allow Zimbabweans access to media."
Zimbabwe currently has one national daily paper, the state-run Herald, and the new licenses would see the country having its first private daily paper in seven years.
The southern African country, which had been in the grips of a decade long political and economic crisis until the formation of a unity government last year in February, has no private radio or television station.
But the fragile coalition, which brought together Mugabe and long time rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, has been marred by policy differences between the two, has set a program to repeal and amend tough security and media laws by year-end.
The newly licensed newspapers are expected to start publishing next month.
Majonga said foreign newspapers, like South Africa's Sunday Times which publishes a Zimbabwe edition, should approach the media commission for a license.
"All foreign publications, with typically Zimbabwean content and targeted at the Zimbabwean readership, should be registered with the commission," said Majonga.
(Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Matthew Jones)