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Government closes Daily News

Police on 12 September 2003 raided the offices and printing press of The Daily News forcing production to cease.

The raid followed a Supreme Court ruling the previous day that the paper’s operations were illegal under the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act.

According to eyewitnesses, raiding authorities presented no warrant or court order during the raid.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1866, GOVERNMENT RAIDS AND CLOSES ONLY INDEPENDENT DAILY

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1866

2003-09-16 06:10

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001866

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

STATE FOR AF FOR A/S KANSTEINER AND PDAS SNYDER; AF/S FOR

DELISI AND RAYNOR; AF/PDPA FOR DALTON, MITCHELL AND SIMS

NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR NEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

GUATEMALA CITY FOR DCM WHARTON

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL PHUM KPAO KMDR ZI

SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT RAIDS AND CLOSES ONLY INDEPENDENT DAILY

NEWSPAPER

 

REF: HARARE 1852

 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING.

PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

 

1.   (SBU) Summary: Friday night, September 12, police

units raided the offices and printing press of the largest

circulation daily newspaper in Zimbabwe, The Daily News

(TDN), forcing production to cease. Thursday’s Supreme

Court ruling declared the paper’s operations “illegal”

under the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act

(AIPPA) (reftel). According to TDN eyewitnesses, raiding

authorities presented no warrant or court order during the

raid. Senior TDN executives advise that the paper will seek

resumption of operations by registering as required by the

Supreme Court ruling. They will then resume their

challenge of AIPPA on constitutional grounds. At this

juncture, it is impossible to divine when and if TDN will

resume publication. END SUMMARY.

 

2.   (U) Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper, “The

Daily News,” has failed to appear on the streets since

September 13 following the closure of its offices and

printing press last Friday, September 12, by paramilitary

police, a day after the Supreme Court ruled that TDN was

operating illegally. The newspaper’s Sunday edition, “The

Daily News on Sunday,” was also prevented from publishing

September 14. Since “The Daily News” began publishing in

1999 the “Daily News” has never failed to go to print, even

when it suffered a January 2001 firebomb attack that

destroyed its printing press. The last time a newspaper

was banned in the country was nearly 40 years ago when the

white minority Rhodesian government outlawed an African

nationalist newspaper, also called the “Daily News.”

 

3.   (U) The closure of “The Daily News” and its sister

weekly “The Daily News on Sunday” came after the publishers

of the two titles, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ),

lost a court battle in which it challenged the

constitutionality of the requirement that they register

under Section 66 of the controversial AIPPA, signed by

Robert Mugabe after last year’s disputed presidential

election. The AIPPA requires news organizations to

register with the Media and Information Commission (MIC).

The “Daily News” has been operating without a license in

defiance of the law passed last year. Instead of

registering, ANZ challenged some sections of the AIPPA in

the Supreme Court. In its ruling, the Supreme Court ruled

that ANZ should have complied with the law by registering

to operate a newspaper before launching its challenge.

Under the terms of the AIPPA, the MIC chairman, former

journalism lecturer Dr. Tafaona Mahoso, could fine the ANZ,

jail its officers, or confiscate its equipment.

 

4.   (SBU) Nkomo was to have appeared in magistrate’s court

the afternoon of September 15, but according to TDN

representatives, the police failed to present charges.

Gugulethu Moyo, ANZ’s counsel, said that she attempted to

register the TDN with the MIC the morning of September 15.

The MIC accepted the application, and in response to Moyo’s

request to be allowed back into TDN offices said that they

“would consider it soon.” MIC Chairman Mahoso suggested in

the press that a quick and automatic re-opening of the

closed newspapers may prove elusive. “Arriving at the

doorsteps does not mean that they will be registered. It

was them who went to court to report their own crime and

not us,” Dr. Mahoso is quoted in the government-controlled

press as saying, adding that “scrutinizing the application

was a process that may take some time.” Meanwhile,

according to Moyo, TDN is preparing an urgent application

to have the closure declared illegal.

 

5.   (U) Since it was founded three years ago, the paper

has faced constant harassment by authorities. Its former

editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Nyarota, and several staff

members have been arrested on various charges under the

AIPPA and some staff have been beaten by pro-government

supporters. Dozens of TDN reporters have been denied

accreditation with the MIC.

 

6.   (U) The Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe

(MISA-Zimbabwe) has condemned the closure of “The Daily

News” and “The Daily News on Sunday”, describing it as an

assault on the constitutional right of freedom of

expression and a denial of media diversity in Zimbabwe.

“The sudden closure of `The Daily News’ robs the country of

one of the few alternative voices in an increasingly

restricted space where Zimbabweans can freely express

themselves,” MISA-Zimbabwe said in statement released in

Harare on September 13.

 

7.   (SBU) COMMENT: The closure of TDN could be a simple

case of the government displaying its power before allowing

TDZ to resume publication after registering with the MIC.

Or these actions could be part of Information Minister

Jonathan Moyo’s personal vendetta against the lone daily

independent newspaper (the ANZ executives’ privately

expressed view). In either case, registration could take a

long time, and the paper would be prevented from publishing

in the meantime. Discussions with many of the day-to-day

staff have revealed that they have taken on gallows humor,

referring to themselves as ex-editors of former The Daily

News. They feel that the government has decided to stop

tolerating an independent critical voice and will prosecute

the matter to the full extent of the law. The case

suggests that, notwithstanding its ongoing efforts to

present a more moderate face to domestic opposition and the

international community, the government will continue to

employ a wide array of tools to punish and to stifle its

critics. END COMMENT

 

 

SULLIVAN

(28 VIEWS)

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