AS the banned Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) saga deepens, police in Harare yesterday placed 45 journalists on their wanted list, saying they would charge them for
operating without accreditation or working for an illegal media group.
The blitz on the journalists came as ANZ, publishers of the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday, this week intensified their bid to stop arbitrary seizure of their property by government and secure registration to resume operations.
ANZ lawyers on Wednesday filed three applications in the High Court and Administrative Court challenging the appropriation of the company’s assets and the Media and Information Commission (MIC)’s rushed decision to deny the newspaper group registration.
Police said they wanted to “interview” the ANZ journalists for allegedly aiding and abetting an illegal operation.
ANZ legal advisor Gugulethu Moyo said she was trying to locate the journalists.
“We are still trying to locate them because they are scattered at their homes and in different parts of the country,” Moyo said. “Some of the journalists named like (former Daily News deputy editor Davison) Maruziva are no longer with us.”
Moyo said 12 journalists were yesterday taken to the police station and nine were charged for working without accreditation. They signed warned and cautioned statements before being released. Police would proceed by way of summons.
Police initially wanted to charge the ANZ journalists with working without accreditation but they were told the newsmen were earlier this year denied accreditation by the Media and Information Commission on the grounds the ANZ was not licensed to operate as a mass media service. Now new charges of “aiding and abetting an illegal operation” are being preferred, Moyo said.
Daily News editor Nqobile Nyathi was on Monday summoned for questioning by police in connection with accreditation but was released without charge. The ANZ has been holding crisis meetings to deal with the current emergency.
On Wednesday, ANZ lawyers filed an urgent chamber application at the Administrative Court seeking a review of the MIC decision to refuse to register the group. In his certificate of urgency, ANZ lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu said the application should be treated with urgency because it was important for employees that their fate be determined immediately. He also said it was critical for the issue to be dealt with urgently because closure jeopardised the ANZ’s viability and the welfare of its 275 workers.
“The closure of a newspaper in a democratic society is a matter with far-reaching consequences touching on the rights of both the publishers of the newspaper and its readers to freedom of expression and needs to be determined and settled without any undue delay,” Mahlangu said.
In his notice of appeal, also in the Administrative Court, Mahlangu said the MIC “is improperly constituted in terms of law, and was accordingly unable to lawfully make the decision that it made”.
He said MIC chair Tafataona Mahoso was “hostile and biased” against the ANZ. Mahlangu said the MIC’s decision “was motivated by political considerations, made in mala fide (bad faith) and accordingly did not comply with the law”.
He said the provisions and requirements were “unconstitutional and therefore unlawful”.
In his High Court application, Mahlangu demanded the return of ANZ property illegally seized by the police. He said the behaviour of the law enforcement agents was “improper, unlawful and wrongful”. He also said the search warrant which they used in their second raid after they had returned the seized items following last week’s order for police to vacate ANZ premises and allow for the re-opening of the group was “improperly issued”. – Staff Writer.