THE High Court yesterday ordered police to immediately vacate the premises of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) and allow the re-opening of the group’s titles, the Dai
ly News and Daily News on Sunday, that were closed last week. It also ordered the return of equipment confiscated this week.
In a ruling following an urgent application by the ANZ, Justice Yunis Omerjee, noting that the Supreme Court had only found the ANZ was “operating outside the law”, said there was no legal basis for the police to shut down the Daily News and seize its equipment.
Justice Omerjee said Section 8 (2) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Registration, Accreditation and Levy) Regulations, 2002, stipulates that once a person has submitted an application for registration then that person is permitted to carry on the activities in question whilst the application is being considered.
When the Act was promulgated on March 15 2002, it provided that persons such as mass media services who were in business when the Act became law should be deemed to be registered for a period of three months.
However, the regulations were not promulgated until June 15 2002, the last day of the three-month period. That meant that anyone applying after that would be allowed to operate until the application was either accepted or rejected.
In terms of the law, the ANZ operated illegally between June 15 last year and September 15 this year when it lodged an application and automatically obtained legal status.
“Therefore, in view of the clear and unambiguous wording of Section 8 (2) of the regulations,” Justice Omerjee said, “the respondents (police) have no legal right to prevent the applicant (ANZ) and its employees from gaining access to the premises of the applicant and carrying on its business of publishing a newspaper.”
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said the police would comply with the ruling.
Media and Information Commission (MIC) chairman Tafataona Mahoso refused to react to the High Court ruling, saying that it was against the police, not the commission.
“That is against the police. It’s not against the MIC,” said Mahoso. “Our role is to assess the application presented by ANZ for a licence.”
Mahoso however described the ANZ’s application as very unusual.
“We have never received an application from an illegal entity. This therefore means that the whole commission would have to deliberate on the issue. The only people entitled to a licence are new (media) organisations.
Old organisations such as ANZ had their deadline expire on July 31,” he said without elaborating on the signficance of that date. – Staff Writer.