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Court Grants Bail to Directors of Zimbabwe's Only Independent Newspaper


A Zimbabwean court has freed on bail the directors of the company that publishes the country's only independent daily newspaper.

The four men were ordered to pay the equivalent of $60 each before they were released. But defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa had argued that the magistrate should free the directors without payment because there are no charges against them. Another director of the same company was released without bail on Saturday.

But the State says the four men broke the law by publishing the Daily News on Saturday, even though it does not have a license. The prosecutor also added a charge of contempt of court.

The newspaper made a spectacular, but brief, return to the streets after the Administrative Court ruled against a government-appointed commission that denied its publisher a license. The court's ruling ordered the commission to grant a license for the newspaper by November 30, and said the paper could publish anyway if the commission did not act.

But the Daily News published an issue the very next day, without waiting for the license or for the deadline to pass.

Zimbabwe's Access to Information and Protection of privacy Act requires media organizations and journalists to apply for permission to operate.

The Daily News' publisher, Associated Newspapers, had refused to comply with the requirement, and petitioned the Supreme Court to declare sections of the Act unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that it could only hear the publisher's arguments after it had registered.

Meanwhile, police are maintaining their blockade on Associated Newspapers offices. The publisher's lawyer, Gugulethu Moyo, said the company will sue if the police do not allow its staff back into the offices. "We were concentrating on trying to get these four directors out of custody, but now we need to actually seek the removal of the police from our premises so that we can continue to do business," she said.

Ms. Moyo could not comment on whether doing business means publishing the Daily News.

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