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Zimbabwe's Police Close  Independent  <i>Daily News</i> - 2003-09-13

Police in Zimbabwe on Friday raided the offices of the country's only independent daily newspaper and forced it to close down.

The police raid against the paper, The Daily News, came a day after Zimbabwe's Supreme Court ruled that its owners had to register under the country's controversial media law, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The owners, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, had refused to comply with the law because they said sections of it attempted to muzzle the media.

The owners had applied to the Supreme Court to have the parts of the law they objected to declared unconstitutional. Under the law, which was passed last year, newspapers had to submit a detailed business plan to the government, along with information about the company's directors and managers, including their political affiliation.

In its decision Thursday the Supreme Court ruled that The Daily News was operating illegally and had to register first before its challenge could be heard.

A lawyer for the owners, Gugulethu Moyo, says the police raid took everyone by surprise since the company had already announced its intention to comply with the court's ruling and then proceed with its challenge.

The police briefly detained the editor of The Daily News, Nqobile Nyathi. She said the police told her that while it was her company that had broken the law, she and others would be charged as individuals if they went ahead and published the paper. Attempts to get a comment from the police were unsuccessful.

The Daily News was founded in 1999 and in the years since then has become Zimbabwe's most widely read newspaper.

Staffers said the police had told them there would be no production on Saturday.

Under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act any company that defies the registration requirement faces a heavy fine or seizure of its equipment by the State.