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Allow Daily News

THE New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Zimbabwean authorities to allow the Daily News, once the country’s largest selling newspaper, to reopen.

, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The call followed a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that the government-appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC) reconsider a 2003 decision to deny registration to the banned newspaper and its sister publication, the Daily News on Sunday.

However, the court ruled against the privately-owned newspaper’s constitutional challenge to certain sections of the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

“CPJ is appalled at the long-term, government-enforced closure of Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the media rights organisation.

Sam Sipepa Nkomo, chief executive officer of the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday, said he was disappointed by the court’s dismissal of the constitutional challenge. Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), which owns the two independent papers, originally refused to register with the MIC and mounted a constitutional challenge to Aippa — legislation which has been used exclusively against the private media.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the ANZ was operating illegally because it was not registered with the MIC, and the authorities shut down both newspapers. ANZ subsequently applied for accreditation but was turned down.

“We are naturally delighted that the court ruled in our favour, but feel judgement should have been handed down earlier — it is a fundamental principle that justice delayed is justice denied,” said Nkomo.

He was unsure whether the company would need to submit a fresh application, or the MIC would use the one already submitted. Citing local sources, the CPJ said the MIC would have 60 days to rule on the application.

But MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso is on record as saying an application did not mean automatic registration. “If the Daily News took 90 days to reverse its decision not to register, the MIC is not under obligation to register them as soon as they come to the commission’s offices,” he said.

Nkomo said ANZ had been financially crippled by the delays in passing judgement and police were still holding part of the paper’s equipment. “We have to establish when we can get the computers, which are still in police custody,” Nkomo told a press briefing following the court judgement.

Zimbabwe’s draconian media legislation, together with its security forces’ constant harassment of local independent journalists, has made it one of the worst places in the world for journalists,” Cooper alleged.— Irin.

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