The Daily News has stopped publishing again after Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court threw out a constitutional challenge to the country’s draconian media laws, which make it a criminal offence to work as a journalist without a licence.
Unlicensed journalists in the country now face arrest, trial and imprisonment without the option of appealing on constitutional grounds.
The Daily News decided to cease publishing following the ruling because its unlicensed journalists could have faced immediate arrest.
The Independent Journalists’ Association of Zimbabwe had argued the media law violated constitutional rights of free expression.
But the court ruled “the practice of journalism was of fundamental importance in a democratic society but this should not place journalists outside regulatory control”.
Information minister Jonathan Moyo said the ruling empowered the state commission to issue or deny accreditation to journalists.
“Journalists now have the distinction of being placed under the control of central government,” Moyo said.
The court ruling was condemned by the International Federation of Journalists, which said: “This decision is another blow to free speech that puts Zimbabwe firmly outside the orbit of democratic accountability.”
The Daily News began publishing again on 22 January after a legal battle to eject police from its offices and printing factory. Police shut the paper down last September after the Government’s Media and Information Commission refused to license it.
The MIC refused a request this week to license Daily News journalists.
Moyo has cited the Hutton Report as a justification for Zimbabwe’s ban on the BBC, imposed in 2000. He was quoted by Reuters as stating: “These guys are no good. Look what they did to Blair. But at least they apologised to him. We asked for a similar apology but they refused.”
By Jon Slattery