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Zimbabwe Government to Appeal Court Ruling on Newspaper Reopening - 2003-09-19

The Zimbabwe government says it wants to appeal Thursday's High Court ruling, ordering the police to allow the country's only independent daily newspaper to resume publishing. And the newspaper's publishers have also filed their own application with the court.

The government says it wants the High Court judge to give it permission to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. The government objects to the same judge's decision on Thursday to allow the Daily News to resume publishing.

After Thursday's ruling, the publisher of the Daily News said his newspaper might be back on the streets by Friday, but the police blocked that plan.

Police allowed the newspaper's employees back into their offices Thursday afternoon, and released some of the office equipment they had seized.

But after a few hours armed police once again stormed the offices and ordered everybody out, claiming they had not been served with a copy of the High Court ruling.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers claim the papers were served on the government lawyers who represented the police. Harare lawyer Motsi Sinyoro says if this is proved to be true the police could be charged with contempt of court.

"Contempt of court connotes a deliberate act of defiance, of knowingly defying a court order, for the police to be charged with contempt of court it must be shown that they were properly served," he said. "If there is no proof that they were served, they can't be charged with contempt of court."

Associated Newspapers lawyers say the papers were properly served, and on Friday they asked the court to charge the police with contempt.

In Thursday's ruling, High Court Judge Yunus Ormejee said the police have no legal basis for preventing Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe from publishing the Daily News, and preventing its employees from entering their offices. He also ordered the return of property the police had seized.

Associated Newspapers had defied a provision of the country's media law requiring newspapers and journalists to register with the government. The publisher filed a lawsuit, arguing the law is unconstitutional.

But the Supreme Court ruled the newspaper could not challenge the media law unless it registered first. The police moved in last Friday, ordered the staff out and removed the company's office equipment. The publisher applied to register on Monday and said that, once registered, it would resume its challenge.