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Zimbabwe5 May 2004

Government commission threats independent weekly with closure

The threat was made in a letter on 3 May - World Press Freedom Day - from MIC chairperson Tafataona Mahoso, who accused the newspaper of failing to report changes in its trade name and its form and frequency of publication, as well as a possible change in its shareholders.

Mahoso gave The Tribune seven days to explain itself, failing which its operating licence would be suspended or cancelled for non-compliance with authorisation and accreditation procedures established in the media law that was took effect in March 2002.

Reporters Without Borders said a law that clearly violates press freedom was being used in an arbitrary fashion by President Robert Mugabe’s government to close a newspaper for reasons completely unrelated to its activities.

The government’s primary target is one of the newspaper’s leading shareholders, legislator Kindness Paradza, who was expelled last week from the ruling Zanu-PF party. Paradza criticised the media law in parliament in March, saying it restricted press freedom and forced all Zimbabwean media and journalists to obtain accreditation from the MIC.

This requirement allowed the government to close The Daily News, a newspaper known for being very critical of the regime, and to ban all foreign reporters from residing in Zimbabwe.

Paradza has also been accused by the state-owned media of colluding with the government’s enemies by trying to raise funds from the owners of The Daily News and British investors.

Zimbabwe violates press freedom more than any other country in southern Africa. Information minister Jonathan Moyo recently warned journalists that Zimbabwe had enough room in its prisons for those who use the foreign press to "lie."



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