Daily News stops publishing

New York, February 6, 2004—The Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent daily, decided not to publish its Friday edition following a Thursday, February 5, Supreme Court ruling upholding legislation that criminalizes the publication of unlicensed newspapers.

According to international news reports, the directors of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the company that owns the Daily News, decided to pull the paper’s latest edition out of fear that their journalists could be arrested for working without accreditation.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, which upheld the constitutionality of a government-controlled licensing regime for both media companies and journalists, forced Daily News management to take the newspaper off the streets for the first time since January 22. The Daily News had resumed publication on that day after a four-month hiatus during which its lawyers battled with the government over the newspaper’s legal status.

The legal battle is set to continue in the Supreme Court on February 18.

Zimbabwe’s repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires all media outlets to be registered and all journalists to be accredited with the Media and Information Commission (MIC), whose board is appointed by the communications minister in consultation with the president. Failure to comply with the requirement can result in fines and up to two years’ imprisonment.

Brian Mutsau, one of the ANZ’s directors, told Agence France-Presse that the Daily News journalists have obtained the necessary forms from the MIC and are in the process of applying for accreditation. In 2003, the MIC refused Daily News journalists accreditation on the grounds that they worked for an unregistered publication. Despite an October Administrative Court order to register the Daily News, the MIC has refused to license the newspaper.