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Zimbabwe17 November 2003

Trial of Daily News directors set for 6 February

A Harare court refused on 13 November to dismiss charges against four directors of the independent paper the Daily News of illegally publishing a newspaper by bringing out a special eight-page issue on 25 October allegedly without legal permission. Their trial was set for 6 February next year.

The paper’s management asked the High Court on 12 November to confirm a 24 October order by the Administrative Court for the authorities to register the paper by the end of this month, thereby enabling it to resume publication.


Four Daily News directors released

Four directors of the Daily News arrested on 27 October and accused of publishing the paper illegally were each released on Z$50,000 (US$63) bail on 30 October. Harare magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe said he would decide on 13 November whether to try them or not.

The directors had been due to appear in court on 28 October to be formally charged but were not taken to the court that day. The paper’s legal adviser, Gugulethu Moyo, said police had taken statements from the four as soon as they were arrested so there was no reason for them to have spent two nights in police custody.


Daily News director freed, four others arrested

Daily News director Washington Sansole was freed by police on 27 October, along with another director’s niece, Tulepi Nkomo, who paid a fine of Z$10,000 (10 euros) for actions supposedly likely to disturb public order. Sansole has been charged with illegally publishing the paper.

Four other Daily News directors, including chief executive Samuel Nkomo, were arrested on 27 October and held overnight, accused of illegal publishing and obstructing justice after the paper produced a special eight-page edition on 25 October. They risk fines of up to Z$300,000 dollars (300 euros) or a maximum two years in jail and are expected to appear in court today.


Mugabe asked to release Daily News director at once

Reporters Without Borders today called on President Mugabe to immediately release Washington Sansole, a director of the Daily News who was arrested earlier today, and Tulepi Nkomo, another director’s niece who was arrested last night.

Their arrests, preceded by the detention of 18 of the newspaper’s employees for several hours yesterday, are the latest round in an unrelenting drive by the government to close the Daily News down for good.

"We are outraged by these arrests, which show the Zimbabwean authorities will stop at nothing to prevent the country’s sole independent daily from appearing," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "They must halt this series of arbitrary arrests and this unacceptable harassment of the newspaper’s directors and employees," he added.

Sansole was arrested in Bulawayo. AFP quoted police as saying he would be held until the other directors presented themselves. However, four of the newspaper’s nine directors have already left the country.

Tulepi Nkomo was arrested last night at the home of her uncle, Samuel Nkomo. The newspaper’s legal adviser, Gugulethu Moyo, said she had no professional relationship with the Daily News. There has been no word of her since her arrest.

Earlier yesterday, police also arrested 18 of the newspaper’s journalists and staff members a few hours after it brought out its first issue since it was banned on 12 September. Reuters said they were released several hours later. However, they reportedly had to sign statements that they work for the Daily News, who might be a first step towards their being prosecuted.

The newspaper said in yesterday’s edition that the Zimbabwean authorities wanted submissive news media that see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing bad about the government. The front page had a cartoon of the information minister being crushed by a pile of copies of the Daily News.

Police are reportedly still occupying the premises of the Daily News. The newspaper’s legal adviser told Reuters the arrests were acts of revenge by a government that preaches the rule of the law but practices the law of the jungle. They come after the Harare administrative court ruled that the government’s media commission had shown bias when banning the newspaper and that the ban was illegal.

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