Mugabe's ally in Supreme Court outlaws 'Daily News' paper

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwe's independent daily newspaper was, in effect, outlawed yesterday by a Supreme Court order putting all journalists under government control.

The judgment by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, a friend and close ally of President Robert Mugabe, upheld a law requiring all journalists to be licensed by the government.

The decision meant the Daily News could no longer publish since all its journalists had been refused accreditation by the government's Media and Information Commission (MIC).

To have printed a newspaper yesterday, after the Supreme Court judgment on Thursday, would have meant the Daily News journalists getting two years' imprisonment with no avenue for constitutional appeal.

"Disgraceful," was how one Zimbabwean lawyer described Mr Chidyausiku's judgment. He said it confirmed the Supreme Court as an ally of President Mugabe in his clampdown on freedom of speech.

Other lawyers said that, on previous occasions, the Daily News had been closed by arbitrary government action.

Now the newspaper has been, in effect, banned by the the highest court in the land - a court supposed to uphold human rights.

Mr Chidyausiku was appointed in 2001 after Mr Mugabe's government fired the widely respected chief Justice Anthony Gubbay.

Mr Chidyausiku ruled that section 20 of the Zimbabwean constitution, which guaranteed freedom of expression, did not guarantee the freedom of the press as well.