Fury as armed police raid Zimbabwe independent

Website pledges News will be back

Press freedom groups around the world have condemned the armed raid by police which has led to the closure of the independent Daily News in Zimbabwe.

Following the raid last Friday, in which 20 riot police armed with AK-47 rifles entered the newspaper’s Harare office, staff were ordered to leave the premises and production of the paper was halted.

Despite international condemnation of the action, riot police followed up the raid this week by confiscating computer equipment from the office of `The Daily News without a warrant.

The authorities acted against The Daily News on a Supreme Court order stating that the newspaper must register with the state Media and Information Commission as required under Zimbabwe’s draconian media law, called the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) passed this year.

In May, The Daily News filed a legal challenge to the Supreme Court claiming the new law was “unconstitutional” and defied the act by refusing to register. The Supreme Court has now quashed the challenge and ordered the newspaper to comply. The Daily News has appealed to the High Court over the ruling.

Editor-in-chief Francis Mdlongwa said registering meant the paper would be subject to various parts of the Act that it had previously fought against.

Under the law, reporters would be required to submit their home addresses and would be criminally liable for reporting inaccurate information.

The World Association of Newspapers has called on President Mugabe to repeal the country’s repressive media laws and said the closure of The Daily News violated the right to freedom of expression.

Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, said: “The closure of this newspaper is not a matter of law, it is a political act.”

He added: “The closure of The Daily News is the inevitable consequence of an intolerable campaign against independent journalism. It is a despicable attempt to stifle dissent.”

The IFJ and the Southern African Association of Journalists issued statements strongly condemning the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“AIPPA is a concerted effort by the Zimbabwean authorities to silence independent voices in the country,” said Martin Musunka, SAJA president.

More than a dozen journalists have been charged under the media law, which President Mugabe signed soon after his re-election in 2002. Among them were several Daily News reporters and a correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, Andrew Meldrum, who was later deported.

By Jon Slattery

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