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Reporter attacked as newspaper resumes publishing after seven-year ban

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders welcomes the return of the "Daily News" after a seven-year closure but is disturbed to learn that one of its reporters was attacked on 24 March 2011. The press freedom organisation pays tribute to the newspaper's courage and tenacity in the face of government persecution and financial difficulties, which delayed its reappearance after it got a new licence.

The newspaper has been back on the newsstands since 18 March, boldly proclaiming in an editorial in its first issue its intention to denounce abuse of authority and "bad governance."

"We will shout at the top of our voices when we detect abuse of power and political intolerance," the editorial said. "We unapologetically declare that we will take a critical stand against bad governance and expose it for the entire nation to see. We are an independent business entity driven by determination to bring about democracy and to make clean money through telling the people what really is happening in our country."

The "Daily News" reporter in the 24 March incident was Xolisani Ncube. He was attacked by supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai while interviewing people at the headquarters of Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). One of his assailants hit him hard in the face and stole his digital camera.

The attack came two weeks after MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa expelled freelance journalist Nkosana Dhlamini from a Tsvangirai news conference because he did not like Dhlamini's questions and accused him of working for President Robert Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF. Internet user Vikas Mavhudzi was arrested on 24 February on a charge of advocating the government's overthrow for posting a message on Tsvangirai's Facebook page.

"It is no coincidence that a 'Daily News' journalist was attacked just a few days after the newspaper resumed publishing," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. "It seems the authorities take a dim view of its proclamation of independence and its pledge to denounce bad governance."

Julliard added: "They clearly feel threatened and are likely to watch it closely and keep harassing its journalists, which is intolerable. Harassment of those who defend freedom of expression will almost certainly increase in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in May."

Reporters Without Borders has always supported the "Daily News" and awarded it the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France press freedom prize in the "media" category in December 2003. The newspaper was banned on 12 September 2003 after a police raid in which all of its equipment was seized. It finally obtained a new licence in June 2010 but has taken until now to raise all the funds necessary to resume operating.

Reporters Without Borders urges all the parties in the coalition government to respect media pluralism and to allow journalists to do their job in the run-up to the elections in May.

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