It is a tribute to the power of The Daily News that even when the paper is off the streets, it helps to expose the ruthlessness of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe.
The paper’s battle to get back on the newsstands has kept a spotlight on the methods used to suppress dissent at a time when international coverage of the country has been restricted by the expulsion of foreign journalists and the banning of media organisations such as the BBC.
Zimbabwe’s draconian media laws, brutal attacks on its journalists, threats to its directors and raids by armed police on its offices have failed to stop the defiance of The Daily News.
Despite incredible intimidation, the paper has tried to fight the regime within the law – and last Friday seemed to have succeeded.
The Daily News finally won its case in court that it should be granted a licence to publish. In the short time it was back on the streets, it managed to produce 120,000 copies of an eight-page paper which was sold out within hours.
But it is the way the Mugabe regime treats The Daily News that shows the rest of the world how far it will go to block opposition.
The paper was closed down for a second time. Eighteen of its journalists were detained and four of its directors charged with operating an “illegal company”.
The Daily News has appealed for international help ever since it was forced off the streets on 12 September. Friends of the paper quickly formed an action group. They were concerned that “Zim-fatigue” had set in and that the international focus had switched to Iraq and the Middle East.
At one of their meetings, a trade unionist told how he had been picked up by the police in Zimbabwe and was held in jail in secret. No one knew where he was until The Daily News published letters he had smuggled out of prison. He is convinced that their publication saved his life.
The Daily News is a paper that saves people’s lives and shines a light into the dark corners of a terrifying regime with no respect for the law, press freedom or human rights.
Journalists around the world must do everything they can to stop this heroic paper being killed off.