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Zimbabwean Judge Puts <i>Daily News'</i> Case on Fast Track - 2003-10-03

Lawyers for publishers of Zimbabwe's most popular newspaper, The Daily News, won a small, but significant legal victory, when a judge ordered their case against the government expedited. The newspaper, which was shut down by the government last month, has been battling in the courts to get back on the newsstands.

President of the administrative court Michael Major has put the case on his urgent docket and set a hearing for October 16. He also ordered Zimbabwe's Media and Information Commission, which refused to register Zimbabwe's only independent daily, to answer to him for its decision.

The lawyer for the publisher, Gugulethu Majuru, was upbeat about the court's decision, and said, "It's one very important step towards the final victory, we believe that our case has merits and the sooner it is heard, the sooner victory will come."

The Daily News was shut down, after it defied Zimbabwe's draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which requires that publishers and journalists obtain a government license in order to operate.

Police swooped down on the newspaper's offices on September 12, and confiscated all its office equipment. The publisher has battled the government in the courts ever since.

The Daily News was founded in 1999 and was Zimbabwe's most widely read newspaper. Its frequent criticism of President Robert Mugabe, his government and party is widely seen as the reason why the government shut the paper down.