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Judge Says Zimbabwe's Only Independent Daily Newspaper Must Be Allowed To Publish - 2003-12-19

In Zimbabwe a judge has ruled that Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News, must be allowed to publish, regardless of a Supreme Court appeal by a government appointed media commission to keep it off the streets.

Administrative court president Sello Nare ruled in favor of the Daily News, which sought the court's authority to publish.

The Daily News has been kept off the streets by a series of legal moves, most recently an appeal filed by the government's Media and Information Commission.

Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, which publishes the Daily News had staff members hard at work Friday afternoon, preparing a newspaper for Saturday. The paper has made such preparations before, but editor Nqobile Nyathi feels that things are different this time around.

"What we had done is to ask the court to allow us to publish while the case before the Supreme Court was pending and the courts have very clearly given us that right and even gone further as to say that even if the commission is to appeal the decision that order will be upheld so we are keeping our fingers crossed that all the parties concerned will abide by the law."

It is not yet clear what the government will do. But the state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Information Minister Jonathan Moyo as warning against any backdoor attempt by the courts to allow the paper to publish.

The Daily News was shut down in September after the Supreme Court refused to hear its complaint that sections of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act are unconstitutional. Among other things, the Ace requires newspapers and journalists to register with the media commission.

The newspaper's executives have been in and out of court since then. On October 24th another administrative court judge ruled that the commission was improperly constituted and that if a new commission did not license the paper by November 30th it would be considered licensed.

The Daily News published the next day, but its directors were arrested for disobeying a court order, and the newspaper stopped publishing again. The executives are free on bail. Friday's ruling upholds the initial administrative court ruling, allowing the newspaper to publish.