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Zimbabwe Newspaper to Appeal Denial of License

Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, owner of The Daily News, will appeal a government decision denying the paper a license to publish.

The government-appointed Media and Information Commission denied a publishing license to The Daily News on Monday.

"There will be a legal challenge to this decision, including an appeal to the administrative court. It is our hope that such challenge will be dealt with by the appropriate authorities and finalized without any undue delay," said Sam Sipepa Nkomo, the chairman of company.

This decision to go back to the courts is the latest development in a saga that started with Associated Newspapers defying a 2002 media law that made it compulsory for publishers and journalists to obtain licenses to operate in Zimbabwe. The publisher argued that sections of the law, called the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, were unconstitutional, including the requirement to register.

The Supreme Court ruled in September 2003 that the newspaper had to be licensed before challenging the Act. After the court ruling The Daily News appeared on the streets, the publishers assuming that they could could continue operating while applying for a license. But they had their equipment seized by the police.

Since then, a lower court ordered the Media and Information Commission to license the daily and its sister paper The Daily News on Sunday. But the commission has blocked publication by appealing to a higher court.

Founded in 1999, The Daily News, which was highly critical of President Robert Mugabe and his government, quickly became the country's most widely read newspaper.

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act has been widely condemned as stifling freedom of expression. Besides requiring that publishing houses be registered, journalists also have to apply for a license to operate in Zimbabwe. Any unlicensed journalist who operates in Zimbabwe faces a heavy fine and up to two years in jail.