Manhunt ordered as seven Daily News staff charged

Daily News: action group formed

Forty-five journalists have been targeted in the latest crackdown by the authorities in Zimbabwe on the closed-down Daily News.

The journalists, drawn from a list allegedly provided by the state-run Media Information Commission (MIC), were called to Harare police station. Seven were charged with practising journalism without licences, the newspaper’s lawyer said.

According to the International Federation of Journalists, a police manhunt has been launched to trace other Daily News journalists who have fled the capital.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White said: “This militant manhunt only serves to highlight a desperate situation for press freedom in which the voice of independent journalism is being stifled. “The brutal tactics of the regime must bring about a tough and uncompromising international response.”

The Daily News, the country’s only independent daily, has been off the streets since 13 September, following a Supreme Court ruling that it should have been registered as a newspaper under the country’s draconian media laws. Police raided the Daily News office in Harare on 12 September and seized 137 computers.

An urgent meeting to discuss the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe was held in the House of Commons last week, attended by representatives from international bodies concerned with constitutional law, human rights, the media, trade unions and the business sector.

Those present decided to work together as an action group – to be known as the Friends of The Daily News – to fight for the restoration of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.

They deplored the decision of the MIC to reject The Daily News’s application to register as a newspaper and its right to exist. They urged the judiciary of Zimbabwe to recognise the High Court ruling of 18 September, which called on the police to leave the paper’s premises, return the confiscated equipment and allow The Daily News to resume publishing.

The South African Government has agreed to talk to President Robert Mugabe’s regime about the Daily News shutdown. It follows a meeting between the South African Government, the South African National Editors’ Forum and the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

The Daily News is appealing for spare laptops. The use of laptops is seen as one way the paper’s journalists can get round the occupation of the offices and the seizing of their computers.

If you can help, contact Press Gazette on 020 8565 4448 or e-mail pged@pressgazette.co.uk and we will pass on any offer to The Daily News.

By Jon Slattery

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