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Zimbabwe: Judge Who Lifted Ban Against <i>Daily News</i> Resigns - 2004-01-29


A Zimbabwe judge who had lifted a ban on the publication of the country's only independent daily newspaper, The Daily News, has resigned following state accusations that he had prejudged the case in favor of the newspaper.

The announcement that Judge Michael Majuru has resigned was made Wednesday by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

The jurist issued a landmark judgment in late November, ruling that the government's Media and Information Commission, that determines which journalists and newspapers may operate in Zimbabwe, was improperly formed. In the same ruling, the judge said The Daily News , which had been closed down in September for not having a license, should be allowed to resume publishing.

But that did not happen. The government appealed, and the police prevented The Daily News staff from entering their offices.

The Daily News went back to court and asked Judge Majuru to enforce his decision. But the judge recused himself after he was attacked in a state-controlled newspaper, the Herald, as being prejudiced in favor of The Daily News .

The case was assigned to another judge in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, who ruled in favor of The Daily News, even though he had received a death threat from an unknown group.

A legal expert in Zimbabwe, who asked not to be named, said Judge Majuru's resignation was to be expected. He said the judge and several of his colleagues have come under, what he called, unbearable political pressure from President Robert Mugabe's government.

More than eight judges and several lower court officials have resigned or been forced out of office in the past three years. The first was Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay who was forced to retire early, after ruling-party supporters besieged his chambers and threatened to kill him.

Zimbabwe's constitution empowers the president to make all judicial appointments, but grants judges the guarantee to rule without political interference.

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