Daily News directors cleared of publishing illegally

New York, September 21, 2004—On Monday, September 20, a magistrate’s court in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, acquitted four directors of the independent, banned newspaper the Daily News, who had been charged with publishing the newspaper illegally. The court ruled that the state had “failed to show a prima facie case against the accused,” according to international news reports.

Similar charges against Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), which owns the Daily News, were also dismissed, defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told CPJ.

The charges against ANZ Chief Executive Officer Samuel Nkomo and directors Stuart Mattinson, Brian Mutsau, and Rachel Kupara had been pending since last October, when they were detained for two days before being released on bail. Armed police closed the Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent newspaper, in September 2003, under a draconian media law known as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). This law requires all journalists and media outlets to be authorized by the Media and Information Commission, whose board is appointed by the government.

The Daily News remains closed pending a Supreme Court ruling on an ANZ challenge to the constitutionality of the AIPPA media law. In February, the Supreme Court threw out a constitutional challenge to AIPPA by the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe, ending a brief reopening by the Daily News. The newspaper said it was closing for fear that its journalists would be arrested.

“CPJ welcomes the court’s acquittal of Samuel Nkomo, Stuart Mattinson, Brian Mutsau, and Rachel Kupara, although they should never have been charged in the first place,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We reiterate our call for the Zimbabwe government to repeal its repressive media law, allow the Daily News to reopen, and cease harassing the independent media.”