Zimbabwe police raid independent newspaper

Police have raided the offices of Zimbabwe's sole independent daily newspaper and seized equipment without producing a warrant or court order, company officials have said.

    Unknown arsonists wreck a news vendor's stock of the Daily News

    Police confirmed they had confiscated some equipment on Tuesday to be used as exhibits in court against the management of the Daily News. The paper is an outspoken critic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

    "We took some properties as exhibits," police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said, "We don't need a warrant to confiscate exhibits."

    He said the authority to seize the equipment stemmed from the fact that the paper had proceeded to publish on Friday, a day after the Supreme Court ruled it was operating illegally.

    Lawyers for the Daily News have filed an urgent application seeking the return of the confiscated equipment and for the paper to be allowed to reopen.

    Lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu said he expected the application to be heard by the High Court on Wednesday.

    Strict media laws

    The Daily News was forcibly shut down last week, accused of operating illegally because it has not registered with a state-appointed media commission.

    Under Zimbabwe's strict media laws all news organisations, newspapers and journalists have to be registered with a government media commission.

    But the Daily News had refused to do so, saying mandatory registration with the state-appointed commission was unconstitutional.

    President Robert Mugabe has
    tightened his grip on the country

    The paper has since applied to register with the state-appointed media commission. But Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told state television on Monday the application was incomplete.

    Meanwhile, two photographers working for international media agencies who were arrested outside the Daily News offices during the police raid were released eight hours after they were charged for obstructing police duties.

    Tsvangirai Mukwazhi of the Associated Press and Paul Cadenhead, a freelancer, were told they were not allowed to take pictures of the raid.

    Mukwazhi said they were made to pay a fine of 5000 Zimbabwean dollars (about US $60) under the country's Miscellaneous Offences law.

    Bomb target

    The Daily News also wants the eviction of its workers from their offices on Friday overturned, and that they be allowed back to work.

    "This latest action by the Zimbabwe government sent a strong and clear signal to regional and international leaders that human rights are under siege in Zimbabwe"

    Amnesty International

    Mugabe's government accuses the Daily News of being a mouthpiece of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

    The paper has been the target of two bomb attacks and several of its journalists, including the former editor-in-chief Geoffrey Nyarota, have been arrested repeatedly since the paper was launched in 1999.
     
    Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, added its voice to a growing chorus of international condemnation.

    "This latest action by the Zimbabwe government sent a strong and clear signal to regional and international leaders that human rights are under siege in Zimbabwe," it said on Tuesday.

    SOURCE: AFP


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