Zimbabwe: Closure of a main independent newspaper

Paris, 15th September 2003 - The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and ZimRights, its affiliate organization, unreservedly and vigorously condemn the closure of one of the few independent media in Zimbabwe, the Daily News. The newspaper was closed after a police raid in the newspaper's office on Friday, September 12th, 2003, which also resulted in the arrest of its editor in chief, Nqobile Nyathi, and the director of publication, Simon Ngena. They were subsequently released.
The closure followed a supreme court ruling according to which the Daily News was operating "illegally", as it does not have a valid licence under the terms of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), that was adopted on March 2002.

The Daily News has submitted today an application for registration to the Media and Information Commission, led by Mr Tafataona Mahoso, who had been appointed by the Zimbabwean Minister of Information and Publicity in the present office, Mr Jonathan Moyo.

The FIDH, a delegation of which has just returned from Zimbabwe, and ZimRights hold the view that, under the semblance of a judicial decision, this closure is a political move aimed at further stifling free and independent voices in the country. The FIDH and ZimRights also fear that the decision to grant a licence to the Daily News may be unnecessarily delayed.

The Daily News and its staff have often in the past been targeted by the authorities because of its independent stance; however, the closure seems to mark a turn in the authorities' spiral of repression, and a hardening of the government's position against groups or individuals perceived to be too critical of its decisions.

The FIDH and ZimRights remind the Zimbabwean authorities that a free and independent media is a vital component of any functioning democracy. The FIDH and ZimRights recall that Article 19(2) of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Zimbabwe provides that « Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. » Unfortunately, it appears that the Zimbabwean government, in a desperate attempt to salvage its hold on power, is now turning to a strategy of blind repression.

Contact press: Gaël Grilhot : +33-1 43 55 25 18