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Zimbabwe's Independent Paper Asks High Court to Stop Police Action - 2003-09-17

The Zimbabwe High Court is to hear an urgent application by Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, which wants to stop the police from seizing its assets. The application was made Tuesday by the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, which publishes the Daily News, after armed police started packing the company's office equipment and carting it off. The police raid follows last week's Supreme Court ruling that the newspaper had to register with the Media and Information Commission.

The police told Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe Chief Executive Officer Sam Siphepha Nkomo that they did not need a warrant or court order to take the equipment. They said it would be used as evidence in a case against him of operating an unregistered company. The police charged Mr. Nkomo last week.

Mr. Nkomo says the police action is illegal and is meant to frustrate the paper's effort to resume publication. The police are saying that the Daily News should not have published on Friday after the Supreme Court ruling that said it had to comply with the registration provisions of the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

But Mr. Nkomo disagrees with the police interpretation.

"We did not understand the Supreme Court as saying we must stop," he said. "They merely said we were operating outside the law so we tried to regularize, there was no reason for us to stop publishing."

Condemnation of the closure of the Daily News continues to come from various organizations within and outside Zimbabwe. The Human Rights Committee of the General Council of the Bar of South Africa calls it an act of State sponsored lawlessness. The International Press Institute called for the Zimbabwean government to withdraw its police and allow the newspaper to continue publishing and to scrap all repressive media legislation.

In a related incident, police arrested two photographers for taking pictures of them as they seized Daily News office equipment on Tuesday. The men were released after paying a fine for what the police called 'conduct likely to provoke a breach of the peace.' They said they only paid the fine to avoid spending a night in the filthy and overcrowded police cells.