Zim judge wonders why The Daily News was banned

A judge hearing an appeal by Zimbabwe’s only private daily newspaper, shut down by the government, questioned on Friday why the country’s media law was not applied when the paper was refused a licence last month.

Administrative Court Judge Michael Majuru grilled the licensing commission’s head Tafataona Mahoso on the criteria used by the commission in deciding to refuse The Daily News registration.

”This is not a case where you can come up with reasons of your own … it has to be reasons laid down by the law.”

”The wording of the act is very clear, it tells you when you can refuse registration,” said Majuru.

The sections of the media law referred to by the judge states that the commission may not refuse to register a mass media house unless it contravenes any provisions of the law or provides misleading or false information on its application form.

Other grounds that can lead to the rejection of registration include non-payment of registration fees or if the application is filed by an non-authorised person.

On Thursday Mahoso said his commission’s decision was influenced by the Supreme Court ruling which had declared The Daily News illegal because it was not yet registered by the media commission.

Majuru also asked Mahoso why his commission did not take any steps as provided in the law against The Daily News for the eight months during which it operated without a licence.

The commission had powers under the law to remind the paper that it was operating illegally, to issue an order to the paper not to continue publishing or impose daily penalties for the period the paper contravened the act.

Mahoso, who admitted that his commission did not set up a new deadline for The Daily News to register, decided not to take action against the paper because the newspaper had turned to the courts to seek the nullification of the media law.

”Since the matter was now in the court, we did not feel that we had to act in the first place,” he told the court.

The hearing continues on Sunday when the lawyers will sum up their arguments.

The Daily News’s lawyers had argued on the first day of the appeal hearing that the media commission’s refusal to grant the paper a registration certificate was politically motivated.

They accused Mahoso of bias and hostility against The Daily News.

The paper has been off the news stands since armed police forcibly shut it down last month and confiscated all its equipment.

Police moved onto the paper’s premises in the capital on Friday September 12 after the Supreme Court ruled that the newspaper was operating illegally because it was not registered with media commission, set up shortly after President Robert Mugabe was re-elected in disputed elections in March last year.

The paper had earlier decided against registering with the commission, arguing that obligatory registration was against the constitution of the southern African country. It subsequently submitted an application last month, but it was rejected. -Sapa-AFP

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Susan Njanji
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