Sun, Dec 21, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Police invade newspaper's office

STATE MUZZLE Zimbabwe's largest independent daily newspaper was closed down on Friday in defiance of an administrative court order that it could resume publishing

REUTERS , HARARE

Police occupied the press building of Zimbabwe's largest independent daily newspaper on Friday shortly after the paper's owner said a judge had granted a new license allowing it to resume publication.

Strive Masiyiwa, chairman of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe which publishes the Daily News, issued a statement earlier on Friday saying an administrative court judge in Bulawayo had granted the newspaper a license, which it would use to put out an edition later in the day.

"The judge has ruled in our favor. He granted the order that we prayed for, that we can resume publishing notwithstanding any challenge against the original court order that we be granted a license," ANZ legal adviser Gugulethu Moyo said.

But the government said Friday's ruling was "academic" in the face of the media commission's Supreme Court appeal and insisted ANZ had no legal right to publish.

"It is patently clear that today's judgement of the Administrative Court has no force of law and thus cannot be implemented. Consequently government will not tolerate any violation of this clear legal position by ANZ or anyone else," Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said in a statement.

ANZ's Moyo said police had since occupied the firm's printing premises and "given an instruction that we should not print." Police were not immediately available to comment.

Police closed the Daily News, which has been critical of the government since its inception in 1999, in September after a court ruled it was operating illegally without license in defiance of media laws enacted last year.

The Administrative Court later ordered a state-appointed media commission to license the paper by Nov. 30, a ruling the commission appealed to the higher Supreme Court.

The ANZ went to print after that ruling, but police moved in and shut the paper again, saying the ruling did not mean the paper could resume publishing immediately.

Moyo said Nare's ruling on Friday upheld the initial judgement, meaning the Daily News could publish regardless of any pending legal challenges at the Supreme Court.

Immediately after the ruling, the ANZ started printing an issue of the paper to hit the streets of Harare yesterday. Printing was halted following the invasion.

Earlier, Nare had delayed delivery of the judgement after receiving anonymous threats against him if he ruled in favor of the ANZ, according to Moyo. A police spokesman could not immediately confirm the report.

The Daily News and other critics of media laws compelling media houses to register say the laws are aimed at muzzling Mugabe's opponents as the country grapples with a political and economic crisis blamed on state mismanagement.

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