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Zimbabwe May Close Another Independent Newspaper - 2004-05-03

As journalists the world over commemorate World Press Freedom Day, another independent newspaper in Zimbabwe faces closure after the government-appointed Media and Information Commission claimed it was publishing illegally.

A report in the government controlled daily, The Herald, quotes Tafataona Mahoso, the chairman of the Media and Information Commission, as saying the weekly Tribune newspaper should stop publishing until it is granted a license by his commission.

Ownership of the newspaper, which was established two years ago, changed hands earlier this year, and Mr. Mahoso says that under terms of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the new owners must apply for a license.

A Tribune staffer who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity says the commission was advised of the change when it happened and that there have been no problems since.

Mr. Mahoso's announcement comes at a time when the publisher of The Tribune, former journalist and ruling ZANU-PF party member of parliament Kindness Paradza, is under attack by some members of his own party.

The Herald has published articles accusing Mr. Paradza of trying to get funding from unnamed British sources and from the owners of The Daily News, the country's biggest selling daily until it was closed last year also for publishing without a license.

Mr. Paradza denies the allegations and insists the newspaper is wholly locally funded.

Mr. Paradza appeared to have stepped on the toes of Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo when he called for changes in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Services Act, under which the government has maintained a monopoly of the electronic media. Mr. Moyo is seen as the author of both acts.

The Tribune, which claims it takes a "middle of the road approach," has also been critical of the government and the ruling party.

A regional media watchdog, The Media Institute of Southern Africa, describes the closure of the Daily News as the "worst media freedom violation recorded in 2003" in the Southern African region.

The report also says Zimbabwe accounts for 54 percent of all media freedom and freedom of expression violations recorded by the institute last year.