New York, September 12, 2003—Zimbabwean authorities have shuttered the offices of the Harare-based Daily News, the country’s only independent daily.
A Daily News staffer who answered the phone at the newspaper’s offices this evening said that “our operations are being ceased.” According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), a Daily News reporter said today that “about 20 police officers walked through the paper’s offices ordering everyone out of the building.”
AFP also reported that the police detained three staff members, including the circulation manager, and that editor Nqobile Nyathi was told to report to Harare’s main police station.
“We are outraged that the Daily News has been closed,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “This is an affront not only to the brave journalists who put out this paper each day but also to the people of Zimbabwe, who rely on the Daily News to keep abreast of what’s happening in their country.”
The newspaper’s closure followed a Supreme Court ruling yesterday that declared the Daily News was operating illegally under provisions of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). Under AIPPA, all media companies are required to register with the Media and Information Commission in order to operate. The registration application forces media outlets to disclose details such as the companies’ business plans, as well as the curriculum vitae and political affiliations of the companies’ directors, Zimbabwean journalists said.
The Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the company that owns the Daily News, challenged the legislation as unconstitutional. In yesterday’s judgment, Supreme Court Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said that because ANZ had not registered with the commission, it was “operating outside the law,” and that the court would only hear the company’s constitutional challenge once it had “submitted itself to the law” by registering.
According to the Daily News, the ANZ now intends to apply for registration and then file suit again challenging the legislation.
AIPPA requires that media organizations be registered and that individual journalists be accredited by the Media and Information Commission in order to operate. The minister of communications appoints the commission’s board in consultation with the president.
Since President Robert Mugabe signed AIPPA into law on March 15, 2002, Zimbabwean authorities have used the act to prosecute reporters and to deny accreditation to select journalists.