The Zimbabwe Supreme Court has ruled the country's only independent paper, The Daily News must apply for registration under the strict Access to Information and Privacy Act before it can challenge the law as unconstitutional. The act is widely seen as an attempt by the government to muzzle the media.
The ruling means that, to stay in business, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, the publishers of the independent Daily News must apply for a license to the commission whose members are appointed by the Minister of Information.
The Daily News has published without a license in defiance of the 2002 law.
The newspaper appealed to the Supreme Court against registration because it maintains some sections of the Act are unconstitutional. It listed among the objectionable provisions those sections requiring publishers to submit a detailed business plan, balance sheet, cash-flow projection for the next five years, and the resumes and political affiliation of the company's directors and managers.
But the Supreme Court ruled that the newspaper is operating illegally and must register first before challenging the law in the courts. A lawyer for the publisher, Gugulethu Moyo, said her company would comply with the ruling and then re-file its lawsuit.
"We acted on the belief that the constitution of Zimbabwe is the supreme law of the country and that all other legislation is subordinate to it," she said. "On that basis we went to the Supreme Court to challenge what we found objectionable about AIPPA [the Act] and what we believe to be an infringement of some of our constitutional rights as freedom of expression and freedom of association."
The Daily News, which started publishing in 1999 has become the most widely read newspaper in Zimbabwe.