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ZIMBABWE has imposed an import duty on the foreign press following concerns by President Robert Mugabe's government over "hostile foreign newspapers coming into Zimbabwe," state media said on Saturday.

"Foreign newspapers sold in Zimbabwe will now have to pay import duty as the government moves to protect the Zimbabwean media space," the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper said.

Citing new regulations published in an extraordinary government gazette, the paper said foreign publications including newspapers, journals, magazines and periodicals were now classed as luxury goods and would attract import duty at 40% of the total cost per kilogram.

The Information Ministry’s Permanent Secretary George Charamba hinted at the measures when he told guests at a media awards ceremony that foreign publications were reaping profits from sales in Zimbabwe while paying nothing or very little.

"The government is looking at the whole regime which allows anyone to push their publications here without paying anything or paying very little, yet when sales are done profits have to be turned into foreign currency which leaves the country," Charamba said.

"We lose the politics, we lose money. As the ministry responsible, it is our duty to protect and defend the national media space."

Zimbabwe has two dailies, both controlled by the government after the only privately-owned daily was shut down nearly five years ago for refusing to register as required under the country's tough media laws.

The country has no private radio or television stations and for an alternative to the official line most Zimbabweans turn to pirate radio stations and regional newspapers, mostly from South Africa, which carry stories about Zimbabwe. - AFP

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