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Police Stop Publication of Zimbabwe Newspaper After Judge Rules It Must be Allowed to Publish - 2003-12-19


In Zimbabwe, the police have stopped the publication of The Daily News, the country's only independent daily newspaper. The police action came shortly after a court ruling earlier Friday allowing the paper to publish.

The police moved in as the paper's staff was preparing Saturday's edition after administrative court president Sello Nare ruled that The Daily News should be allowed to publish. Daily News editor Nqobile Nyathi says the police went to the paper's printing press and ordered the production staff off the premises.

State radio and television quoted Information Minister Jonathan Moyo as defending the police action. Mr. Moyo reportedly dismissed Friday's court ruling as "academic and of no practical significance on the ground" because a government-appointed media commission had already launched an appeal to the Supreme Court against an earlier decision in the paper's favor.

Before Friday's ruling Mr. Moyo had warned Mr. Nare against what he called a "backdoor attempt" to rule in favor of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, the publisher of The Daily News. The warning was reported in the state controlled Herald newspaper.

The Daily News has been kept off the streets by a series of legal and police moves, most recently by an appeal filed by the government's Media and Information Commission.

The paper was shut in September after the Supreme Court refused to hear its complaint that sections of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act are unconstitutional. The court said Associated Newspapers needed to apply for registration before their case could be heard. Among other things, the act requires newspapers and journalists to register with the media commission.

Executives of The Daily News have been in and out of court since then. On October 24 another administrative court judge ruled that the commission was improperly constituted and that if a new commission did not license the paper by November 30 it would be considered licensed.

The Daily News published the next day, but its directors were arrested for disobeying a court order, and the newspaper stopped publishing again. The executives are free on bail. Friday's ruling was supposed to uphold the initial administrative court ruling, allowing the newspaper to publish.

Sam Sipepa Nkomo, the chief executive officer of Associated Newspapers, says his company is going to make an urgent application to the courts to have the police ordered not to interfere with The Daily News' activities.

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