Zimbabwe issues six new TV licences, including to defence ministry

HARARE, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has issued six new free-to-air TV licences, including to a company owned by the defence ministry, the broadcasting authority said on Friday, after Zimbabweans called for independent broadcasters.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which is solely owned by the government, has been the only broadcaster in the southern African nation since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Zimbabweans have long called for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to license independent broadcasters, and accuse state-owned media of biased coverage in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

BAZ Chairman Charles Sibanda said in a statement that among those issued licences was Rusununguko Media Pvt Ltd, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Zimbabwe National Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Elphios Makotore confirmed to Reuters that Rusununguko Media was owned by the defence ministry.

Zimbabwe Newspapers, which is majority-owned by the government through a trust and runs the country’s biggest newspapers and several radio stations, was also awarded a licence.

BAZ conducted public hearings last month to choose new broadcasters. Sibanda said those awarded licences should go on air within 18 months, failing which they would lose the licences. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)