New York, September 22, 2003—Four directors of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the company that owns Zimbabwe's only independent daily, the Daily News, were arrested today and charged with violating the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), according to ANZ Chief Executive Sam Sipepa Nkomo.
Earlier today, Nkomo and three directors—Brian Mutsau, Rachel Kupara, and Stuart Mattinson—were summoned to the Central Police Station in the capital, Harare, and told that they were under arrest for publishing a newspaper without a license. The company's lawyers managed to negotiate the directors' release in return for assurances that the four would return to the station tomorrow morning for further questioning.
According to journalists at the newspaper, police today re-confiscated more than 100 computers that had been returned to the newspaper on September 20.
Police also asked Nkomo for a list of all ANZ employees, Nkomo said. He told CPJ that he plans to supply the list but fears that it will allow police to arrest and charge the newspaper's entire staff.
Media Commission rejects independent daily's application
On Friday, September 19, Zimbabwe's Media and Information Commission (MIC) rejected the Daily News' application for registration under the AIPPA. In the decision, quoted by the state-owned Herald newspaper, the commission ruled that ANZ had submitted its application eight-and-a-half months after the deadline to register, along with other alleged violations of AIPPA. Lawyers for the ANZ dispute these accusations.
The commission also said that none of the company's employees are accredited to work for the Daily News. Sources at the paper told CPJ that the majority of employees had applied to register in December 2002 but were rejected because their news organization had not registered.
Gugulethu Moyo, ANZ's legal adviser, told CPJ that the company plans to appeal the MIC's decision to the High Court.
"The government's attempt to cover its actions with a veneer of legality becomes more ludicrous each day," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "This is an out and out assault on a source of independent news."
The current crisis began on September 11, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Daily News' was operating illegally under AIPPA. Authorities shuttered the paper the next day, and the Daily News and the ANZ began a protracted court battle to remain open.
[For more background, see previous CPJ alerts:
September 19, 2003: Police block Daily News in defiance of court order
September 18, 2003: High Court rules that Daily News can re-open
September 16, 2003: Police raid offices of Daily News
September 12, 2003: Authorities shutter Daily News ]