Reporters Without Borders today condemned the announcement by the Zimbabwean government’s Media and Information Commission (MIC) on 25 February that it is closing the independent Weekly Times for a year for "violating the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act."
"As usual, the Zimbabwean authorities find any old pretext for gagging independent media that might spoil things for them at the height of an election campaign," the press freedom organization said, calling it "the second serious press freedom violation in two weeks," after three foreign press correspondents were forced to flee the country.
"The government does not hesitate to step up the repression one month before the 31 March legislative elections," the organization added, "although it ratified the Southern African Development Community’s protocol on principles and rules for democratic elections which ought, in theory, to guarantee press freedom."
MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso, who had threatened to close the Weekly Times in January just a week after the first issue came out, said its licence was being withdrawn because of a false statement and the failure of its owners to reveal facts. The newspaper had tricked him when it registered its licence by hiding certain aspects of its editorial line, Mahoso alleged.
According to its statutes, the Weekly Times is a privately-owned news weekly focussing on development issues.
It is the fourth privately-owned, independent newspaper to be closed in less than two years, following the Daily News, the Daily News On Sunday and The Tribune.