Media commission refuses to license banned newspapers

New York, July 19, 2005—
The government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) yesterday refused, once again, to license the banned independent Daily News and its sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday, both of which were shut down in September 2003 for violating the country’s draconian press laws.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, the MIC rejected the newspapers’ application on the grounds that their parent company, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), had violated the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which requires all private media and journalists to register with the commission—the same grounds used by the MIC to shutter the paper two years ago.

In its decision, the MIC accused ANZ of publishing an unregistered newspaper and of employing unaccredited journalists, the Herald reported. However, when journalists working for the Daily News have attempted to register in the past, they have been turned down because they were employed by an unregistered company, according to CPJ research.

Sam Sipepa Nkomo, chief executive of ANZ, said he was shocked by this decision. In an interview with CPJ today, he said the refusal indicated that the MIC “has not considered the current application at all,” despite its repeated requests for additional financial and other documentation. Nkomo said that ANZ would challenge the commission’s decision in court.
ANZ filed its latest application for a license in March, after the Supreme Court ruled that the MIC should reconsider its 2003 decision to deny ANZ registration under Zimbabwe’s repressive media laws. (See more information on this March decision).

“The enforced closure of Zimbabwe’s only independent daily and the harassment of its journalists is shameful,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “The Daily News must be allowed to reopen immediately and unconditionally.”

In a separate case, the MIC refused last week to allow the independent weekly The Tribune to reopen, after suspending it for one year in June 2004 for allegedly violating AIPPA.

The commission denied The Tribune a license on financial grounds, stating that the newspaper had failed to show that it had enough capital to resume publication, according to the local chapter of the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). The paper’s publisher, Kindness Paradza, says that the newspaper has sufficient financial backing, MISA reported.

An appeal launched in 2004 against the newspaper’s suspension is still pending in court, MISA reported. For more information on The Tribune, see CPJ’s June 2004 letter.

“The government clearly had no intention of allowing either of these independent newspapers to reopen,” Cooper said. “The MIC hearings were a farce designed to disguise the government’s campaign to silence critical media and to keep the Daily News in a never-ending, bureaucratic Catch-22.”