THE ruling last week declaring Daily News operations illegal has come under attack from local civic groups who have accused the Supreme Court of endorsing repression in Zimb
abwe. The High Court yesterday ordered that the paper be allowed to reopen after it was closed by police on Friday.
The full bench of the Supreme Court last Thursday said “citizens are obliged to obey the law and argue afterward” when it dismissed an application by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) challenging registration.
The Daily News and Daily News on Sunday had refused to register with the Media and Information Commission on a point of principle. The papers in the ANZ stable said clauses in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) requiring journalists to register were unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court said the Daily News had approached the court with “dirty hands” as it should have first complied with the law.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition this week strongly criticised the Supreme Court ruling and the subsequent action of the police in closing the papers.
“ZLHR notes with grave concern that the Supreme Court ruling effectively resulted in the biggest assault on the right of freedom of expression in the history of our Independence,” ZLHR said.
“Repression may therefore have sadly found itself an ally against human rights defenders, in the form of the judiciary,” the lawyers said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said it had been stunned by the court’s ruling.
“The Crisis Coalition is stunned by the irregularity with which this case has been handled, and the perverted sense of justice demonstrated by the Supreme Court in this instance,” it said. “In a democracy, citizens should be allowed to challenge the constitutionality of a law before having to comply with it, without being accused of subverting the legal process.”
The Coalition said it was unprocedural for the police to enter a building, detain several officials for questioning and close down a business without producing a court order or explaining the legal foundation for their actions.
Following the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, police on Friday moved in to close the ANZ offices, effectively halting publication of the two papers.
On Tuesday police seized computers and photographic equipment from the two publications allegedly to use as exhibits in court.
“ZLHR notes with alarm that despite being served with an urgent court application to prevent the removal of equipment, the police have recklessly continued with their conduct, unconcerned as to the outcome of the court proceedings,” ZLHR said.
“In view of the intransigence of the police, ZLHR is concerned that the case for the interdict has not been dealt with as urgently as the circumstances dictate,” the legal grouping said on Wednesday.
“It is regrettable that this seems to have become the modus operandi of the courts when dealing with matters involving universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms,” it said.