A worldwide campaign to defend Zimbabwe’s Daily News has been launched after it was forced to close down by police for a second time at the weekend.
The International Federation of Journalists this week called for all journalists’ groups to back the campaign.
“This is Africa’s biggest press freedom battle,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. “Journalists all around the world are outraged at the tactics of the Mugabe regime, which are in defiance of the courts and international standards of human rights.”
The Daily News was first forced to close down on 12 September after it lost a case before the Supreme Court in which it argued that having to register for a licence under Zimbabwe’s harsh new media laws was “unconstitutional”.
Following the case, the paper’s office in Harare was raided by armed police, 130 computers were seized and journalists forced into hiding.
The paper then tried to register for a licence but was refused by the statecontrolled Media and Information Commission (MIC).
Last Friday, the paper gained what appeared to be a significant victory when the Administrative Court said the paper should be registered by 30 November and ruled that the MIC had shown bias against the paper and was improperly constituted.
The Daily News rushed out an eightpage issue on Saturday, which sold 120,000 copies, before the paper was again raided by police and closed down. Eighteen journalists were detained and four directors charged with operating an “illegal company”.
The directors, including Sam Nkomo, the chief executive of Associated Newspapers Zimbabwe, were held in custody and could face further charges.
“The situation is now one where the actions of the authorities have been exposed as legally suspect and politically motivated,” said White.
“Journalists throughout the region and around the world will campaign strongly for justice for The Daily News and its journalists. This latest action must not be allowed to stand.”
The South African Editors’ Forum and the wider African Editors’ Forum have condemned the action taken against The Daily News.
By Jon Slattery