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Zimbabwe22 July 2004

Closure of The Tribune confirmed by High Court

The Zimbabwe High Court today upheld the government’s 10 June cancellation of the weekly Tribune newspaper’s publishing licence.

Judge Tendai Uchena upheld the arguments of the state-run Media and Information Commission that the paper had failed to meet administrative requirements to notify changes in its name, format and frequency of publication and had not been cooperative enough.

The paper’s publisher, Kindness Paradza, who has been suspended as an MP for the ruling Zanu-PF party and has denounced the shutdown of the paper as politically-inspired, said after the hearing he would appeal to the Supreme Court.


Government closes another newspaper

Several weeks of threats against The Tribune by the governmental Media and Information Commission (MIC) came to a head yesterday when Kindness Paradza, the head of the newspaper’s publishing house, received an MIC letter cancelling the newspaper’s operating licence for a year for allegedly failing to respect authorisation and accreditation procedures introduced by a news media law in March 2002.

Paradza said The Tribune would challenge the closure in the courts.

"This repressive law, giving the MIC the powers of a press tribunal, has once again been used by Robert Mugabe’s government to silence dissident voices in Zimbabwe," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is a disgraceful and reprehensible act of censorship, but it comes as no surprise from a regime that violates press freedom more than any other in southern Africa."

The organisation added that the closure was all the more arbitrary as it was above all "motivated by political reasons absolutely unrelated to the newspaper’s activities."

In a press release giving the official reasons for the closure, MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso accused the newspaper of failing to report changes in its commercial name, format, and frequency of publication and of misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to mislead the commission.

The authorities’ chief target in all of this is Paradza, who was recently expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF party for which he was elected as a parliamentary representative. Paradza criticised the news media law in parliament in March, arguing that it needed to be reexamined in a critical and sober fashion to see if it was obstructing local investment in radio and television.

Paradza was also accused by the state media of colluding with the government’s enemies after he tried to raise funds from the owners of the opposition Daily News and British investors.

The Tribune’s closure coincides with a prosecution of the Daily News for the same alleged offence, namely failure to follow the accreditation procedure. The Daily News, which won the 2003 Reporters Without Borders Prize, has been closed since February. Hearings in the prosecution, in which the publisher and three editors have pleaded not guilty, have been postponed until next month.

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