Police shut down Daily News -- again

Police in Zimbabwe on Saturday arrested at least 18 Daily News workers and shut down the embattled paper only hours after it reappeared on the streets after a month-long government ban.

Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said “18 or 19” workers were arrested. They included reporters, sub-editors, internet, human resources and advertising staff.

They were taken to a police station in central Harare but were released after a couple of hours without charge.

“The police have told them not to go to their premises. The police are worried they will publish on Sunday,” said Mtetwa.

The best-selling Daily News, which is a staunch critic of President Robert Mugabe, resumed publishing on Saturday, a day after a court ruled it be issued with an operating licence.

Scores of people scrambled for a copy of the paper on the streets of Harare.
Unofficial vendors were doing a brisk business, selling the paper for up to three times the official price.

“Thank God we’re back,” billboards advertising the paper read.

No stranger to clashes with the government, The Daily News was shut down more than a month ago after Zimbabwe’s supreme court ruled it was operating illegally because it did not have a licence.

The paper then applied for a licence but was turned down by the state-appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC).

On Friday, a judge ruled the paper should be given a licence and said the MIC was improperly constituted. The ruling was greeted with glee by Daily News workers and critics of the government.

But police on Saturday claimed to be unaware of the latest ruling, said Mtetwa.

“The police have not read the administrative court judgement, in fact they did not know it existed,” she said.

The editor of The Daily News on Sunday, William Saidi—who was not arrested—said he saw one armed policeman go into the offices.

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said he had “no details” about the arrests.

The police move however came as little surprise. State radio said the renewed publication of The Daily News was “in contempt of court”.

A Daily News senior reporter, Precious Shumba, had written in an article published on Saturday: “We hope that this time round we will be able to do our work without interruption.”

Mtetwa meanwhile said the police had told her to bring the newspaper’s directors to the police station on Sunday.

“They’ve told me to bring all the ANZ [publishers of The Daily News] directors to the police station tomorrow,” Mtetwa said, adding that she was likely instead to take them on Monday.

Tough media laws introduced last year require all reporters and all publications to be licensed with the MIC.

The Daily News claims the legislation, known as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, was crafted specifically with the paper in mind.

The only other two dailies on sale in Zimbabwe—The Herald and the Bulawayo-based Chronicle—are both state-owned, and closely follow government thinking.

The four-year-old Daily News has a history of clashes with the government, which says it is a front for Western interests.

Several of its reporters and photographers have been arrested, including prominent former editor and founder Geoff Nyarota.

There have also been two unexplained explosions—one at the paper’s offices and one at its printing presses.

The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday employ about 300 full-time staff, and about 1 000 vendors sell the paper.

It was not clear late on Saturday whether The Daily News on Sunday would be published.—Sapa-AFP

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