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Last Updated: Monday, 17 December 2007, 11:04 GMT
Zimbabwe to relax security laws
Zimbabwean police holding truncheons
Police rarely give permission for opposition rallies
Zimbabwe's government is to ease its tough security and media laws, responding to opposition demands at talks to end the political crisis.

The existing laws have been used to block opposition political rallies and to shut down the private press.

Under the changes, the police must give reasons to ban a rally and a magistrate can be asked to overturn a ban.

President Robert Mugabe was last week confirmed as his party's candidate in elections due next March.

The revisions were agreed at talks brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the two opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions.

Details of the talks have been mostly secret but on Sunday, one MDC group said they were "deadlocked".

Bi-partisan

The Public Order and Security Act (Posa), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Broadcasting Services Act are to be amended.

At present, those who intend to organise public meetings, political rallies or demonstrations can only appeal to the minister of home affairs if the police ban their meeting.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at a ZANU-PF congress in Harare, 14 December 2007
President Mugabe is trying to extend his 27 years in office

In March, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was severely assaulted after being arrested for attending a banned rally.

Mr Mugabe later said he had "asked for it" by ignoring police warnings.

Under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), there will be changes to the commission that regulates the country's media.

Members of the commission are to be named from a list submitted by a bi-partisan parliamentary committee and should have media experience, reports the Reuters news agency.

Journalists' unions will also be on the commission, says AFP.

Although the media is to be opened to foreign owners, foreign journalists will remain barred from working permanently in the country.

In 2003, Zimbabwe's best-selling daily newspaper, the Daily News was closed down, after a series of run-ins with the government.

It is still trying to be allowed to publish again.

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