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The more Zimbabwe changes ... the more it stays the same.

There is a lot of confusion about Zimbabwe. Is it changing or not?

The creation of a power-sharing government created high expectations that President Robert Mugabe's grip on power would loosen and new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai would start the troubled country on the road back to democracy.

But most reports point to the conclusion that Mugabe remains firmly in control. Tsvangirai manages a half a step forward and then Mugabe takes a full step back.

The latest news is that the government is moving to allow the Daily News, an independent newspaper that the government shut down six years ago, to resume publishing. This follows the news that the BBC and CNN are now permitted to work in Zimbabwe again. Is Mugabe allowing  a free press?

No, according to many Zimbabwean journalists. Reporters are still being prosecuted under the draconian anti-press laws. Government officials still refuse accreditation to journalists who do not work for the state press. Zimbabwean journalists working for the foreign media must pay hefty fees of $4,000 per year for state press credentials. The state media is remains tightly-controlled by Mugabe's henchman and it has a monopoly on all radio and television broadcasts.

"As long as we have bad laws, there is no press freedom. What is needed is an overhaul of the media laws across the board," said Loughty Dube, chairman of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa).

A fully free press is one of the key demands that major Western donors are making before they can begin to consider granting Zimbabwe the billions of dollars in funds that it needs to rebuild the country. So far the steps towards a free press can only be described as preliminary and not decisive.

http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/africa/090802/the-more-zimbabwe-changes-the-more-it-stays-the-same