(MISA/IFEX) - Zimbabwe's popular mass circulating newspaper banned in 2003 under the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is set to bounce back after it was granted a licence to resume operations ending a six-year agonising legal battle. "The Daily News" and its sister publication "The Daily News On Sunday", published by the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, were closed on 12 September 2003 by the now defunct state-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC).
A special committee, set up in September 2008 to review the Media and Information Commission's refusal to grant the paper a licence, said it was "satisfied that the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) have complied with the provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act". The Chairman of the Special Board Committee on ANZ, Edward Dube, wrote to ANZ's lawyers on 30 July 2009 advising them: "Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe is therefore advised to contact the relevant authority for their licence."
Dube also wrote to the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, advising him of the decision. However, ANZ will have to wait for an unknown period for its licence as the successor body to the MIC, the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), is still to be constituted. Interviews for persons who will be considered for appointment to the ZMC will be conducted on 3 August by Parliamentary Select Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
The granting of the ANZ licence comes hard on the heels of a government decision allowing BBC and CNN to broadcast from Zimbabwe following various meetings with the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity. ANZ was closed following the enactment of the AIPPA in 2002 requiring media houses and journalists to be registered with the MIC. ANZ did not comply with the statutory requirement and challenged the constitutionality of AIPPA in the Supreme Court, as an infringement of the right to freedom of expression as provided for under Section 20 (1) of Constitution.
In September 2003, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled that "The Daily News" was operating outside the law and had to register with the MIC. On 12 September 2003 following the Supreme Court ruling, heavily armed police ordered ANZ to stop operations and seized equipment that included computers from its offices in Harare.
That marked the beginning of ANZ's agonising legal battle to be registered and resume operations in a rigmarole case characterised by counter appeals by the MIC against court rulings in favour of the publishing house.