Zim media trial slammed

FORMER South African Constitutional Court judge Johan Kriegler has slammed the trial of four directors of Zimbabwe’s banned Daily News which ended on Monday, as “objectionable”.



ca, sans-serif”>Judge Kriegler was asked by the International Bar Association to observe the trial in July and without naming him as the author, released his report in London to coincide with the directors’ acquittal for insufficient evidence.


The directors of Zimbabwe’s Daily News were detained in October last year and charged with publishing the Daily News without a certificate of registration under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).


Judge Kriegler says in his report that the gov-ernment introduced the Act only after the founding of the Movement for Democratic Change as the first political party to threaten the 19-year de facto one-party rule by Zanu-PF.

He said the new law was “probably principally aimed” at Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe which owns the Daily News and its sister Sunday newspaper which began publishing in 1999 and quickly outsold state-controlled papers.


The Act demands that all journalists and publishers be licensed with the state-appointed Media and Information Commission or face up to two years in prison.


Judge Kriegler records that the two newspapers did not at first apply for registration, “believing it to be inconsistent with the Declaration of Rights”.

“Instead, in January 2003 it launched a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the relevant provisions of Aippa.”


It lost the case and days later applied for registration.


Judge Kriegler said Tafataona Mahoso, director of the media commission,the principal witness in the trial who also ordered several riot police raids on the Daily News, had given “biased” testimony against the four directors to support his political objectives.


“The very existence of the prosecution is objectionable. The statute under which it is framed is objectionable. The circumstances surrounding the institution of the charges are objectionable. The conduct of the police was disgraceful and the accused are clearly more victims than perpetrators of unlawful conduct,” Justice Kriegler said. – The Mercury.