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Four years after being banned, newspapers still in legal battle to resume publishing

(MISA/IFEX) - On 11 September 2003, the Supreme Court passed its "dirty hands" judgment against Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the banned "Daily News" and "Daily News on Sunday" newspapers.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku's judgment led to the closure of the publishing company on 12 September 2003, when police armed with automatic rifles burst into the newspapers' offices in central Harare at about 5:00 p.m. (local time) and ordered all staff to leave. Nqobile Nyathi, the editor, and Simon Ngena, the production manager, were arrested and taken to Harare Central Police Station. They were later released.

Dr Tafataona Mahoso, chairman of the governmental Media and Information Commission, was quoted as saying he would have been surprised if the police had not taken any action because "the 'Daily News' does not exist in terms of the laws of the country" (quoted in "The Herald" of 13 September 2003). These actions were widely condemned by both local and international actors as a serious violation of media freedom.

Four years later, the matter is still pending before the courts as the ANZ continues its fight to be duly registered and licensed to resume publication, as required under the restrictive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), in what can easily pass as one the longest unresolved court cases in Zimbabwe's judicial history.

Many a reader of the popular "Daily News" look back with nostalgia to the reportage by its dedicated editorial team as they fulfilled their journalistic roles as the thermometers and stethoscopes of the country's daily socio-economic, political and cultural temperature and pulse. Their role was simply that of telling truth to power without fear or favour.

What is certain, though, is that some day in the future, the "Daily News" and "Daily News on Sunday", together with other publications which met with a similar fate - such as "The Tribune" and "Weekly Times" - will, like the proverbial phoenix, rise again to afford Zimbabweans increased access to alternative views, opinions and ideas that foster democracy and spur Zimbabwe's socio-economic development.

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