High Court refuses to accredit Daily News journalists

New York, May 12, 2005 – Zimbabwe’s High Court yesterday dismissed a request to accredit journalists of the banned Daily News, according to news reports and CPJ sources. The ruling came more than a year after the newspaper’s owners, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), filed the application.

The judge said the newspaper’s journalists could not be accredited until the newspaper had been granted registration by the government’s Media and Information Commission (MIC). The MIC has thus far denied such registration.

The Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent daily, was closed in September 2003 after the Supreme Court ruled that, under the draconian 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the paper was operating illegally. AIPPA requires all journalists and media outlets to register with the MIC. The Daily News initially refused to register and instead launched a constitutional challenge to the law. On March 14 of this year, the Supreme Court upheld AIPPA but ruled that the MIC must reconsider a 2003 decision to deny registration to the Daily News.

ANZ director Sam Sipepa Nkomo told CPJ that the company had filed a new application with the MIC on March 16, but that at a hearing on May 5, the MIC had requested new documents. He said these had now been submitted. ANZ lawyer Mordechai Mahlangu said that the commission had demanded information beyond the legal requirements.

“This latest ruling makes clear that this entire legal process is a farce designed to provide cover for the government’s campaign to crush the independent media,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on the government to allow the Daily News to resume publication immediately.”

A crackdown on the independent press in Zimbabwe that started in 2002 has included the closure of four newspapers, including the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday, as well as the detainment, harassment, and forced exiled of dozens of journalists.