A group of Zimbabwean journalists has launched an online news service that members say is aimed at providing balanced coverage of the country.

The journalists claim that Zim Online is an independent news service from Zimbabwe, and that they want to tell what the call the other side of the Zimbabwe story, the side they say the government is trying to suppress.

In its launch statement, the online publication is said to be aimed at the African community at large. The statement says too many Africans have so far remained indifferent to the Zimbabwe crisis and unaware of its real causes and victims, partly because of the Harare government's robust propaganda.

Zim Online also targets the Zimbabwean community abroad. It is estimated that millions of Zimbabweans now live abroad as the economic crisis worsens at home.

The project is registered in and will be run from Johannesburg. This, the publishers say, is because of Zimbabwe's tough Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which requires publishers and journalists to register with a government-appointed commission.

The Daily News, the country's leading daily newspaper, and its sister paper, The Daily News on Sunday, were shut down last year after they fell foul of the law by refusing to register. The independent newspapers said parts of the act are unconstitutional.

The courts are still to decide the fate of another newspaper, The Tribune, which was banned for a year for allegedly not following the requirements of the act.

The editor of The Daily News on Sunday, Bill Saidi, says the new Zim Online project is a positive development, and a direct result of the country's repressive media law. He says the journalists are trying their best to get information to the people. Mr. Saidi denied a report in the independent weekly, The Standard, that linked former Daily News staffers to the project.