- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2003

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s state media commission has denied the country’s only independent daily an operating license, ending attempts to get it back on the streets after the government shut it down, the paper’s publisher said yesterday.

“With one stroke of a pen the Media and Information Commission … has made a decision that denies the people of Zimbabwe their fundamental right to freedom of expression,” Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, the publisher of the Daily News, told reporters.

The Daily News was Zimbabwe’s best-selling publication. It had been a staunch critic of President Robert Mugabe since it was founded in 1999.

Critics of the government had feared tough new media laws would be used to shut it down.

Last week police closed the paper and confiscated its equipment after the Supreme Court ruled it was operating illegally because it had not applied for a license.

Under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), signed into law by Mr. Mugabe soon after his re-election last year, all newspapers and journalists must be registered with the state-appointed media commission.

The Daily News promptly applied for a license — but was turned down, the state-owned Herald newspaper said yesterday.

“The commission’s six members unanimously agreed that the [Daily News] application for registration failed to meet the requirements of the law and as a result refused to grant it,” the Herald said.

Mr. Nkomo said he had expected the Daily News to be denied a license. He vowed to pursue legal action to get the paper back on the streets.

Zimbabwe’s media record has been in the spotlight over the past three years. Several foreign correspondents have been deported and at least a dozen reporters arrested.

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