- The 'Daily News', Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, resumed publication today after police closed it on 12 September 2003, following a Supreme Court declaration that the newspaper was operating illegally.
Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the company that owns and publishes the 'Daily News', had refused to register the newspaper with the government's Media and Information Commission (MIC) in 2003. Instead, the company mounted a constitutional challenge to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which mandates registration.
Following the Supreme Court's September 2003 declaration, the ANZ attempted to register the 'Daily News', but the Media and Information Commission rejected its application. Though an administrative court has directed the Commission to register the newspaper, it has still not complied.
On 19 December last year, after an administrative court ruled that the paper should be permitted to resume publication, police occupied the offices of the 'Daily News' and the premises of the ANZ's printing press. The police refused to allow journalists to enter the buildings to work.
On 9 January, a Harare High Court judge ordered police to vacate the newspaper's offices and printing press, but police remained on the premises. On 21 January, the High Court again ordered police to vacate the newspaper's offices and to allow journalists back to work. Police finally left the premises that day, after the paper's staff served them with the order.
The newspaper's staff plans to resume daily publication, but several obstacles remain. According to Bill Saidi, editor of the Sunday edition of the 'Daily News', police have not returned most of the paper's seized equipment, including computers. The ANZ has also lost significant revenues while the paper was closed and has accrued large legal expenses.
In addition, the government's Media and Information Commission and the Information Ministry both filed applications to the High Court this afternoon seeking a stay to yesterday's ruling in order to stop the paper from publishing, said 'Daily News' legal adviser Gugulethu Moyo.
Meanwhile, the 'Daily News' already has hit Zimbabwean nrewsstands. Sipepa Nkomo, ANZ managing director, explained that the paper's first special edition only carried already-published articles and was solely designed to advertise the fact that the newspaper was now back.
The news of the paper's return to the newsstands today was welcomed both by Zimbabwean and international free press organisations, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). "We are very happy to see the country's only independent daily back on sale," RSF said in a statement today.
- It is good news for news and information pluralism in Zimbabwe, the Paris-based group added. "Local people will finally have access to critical news, quite distinct from what appears in the official press. We hope that this episode in the story of the 'Daily News' is now closed and the authorities will allow the newspaper's journalists to work in complete freedom and safety," RSF said.
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