Newspaper chief arrested after 'Daily News' publishes

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The Independent Online

Police detained a newspaper director and the relative of another executive in the latest crackdown on Zimbabwe's independent media.

Police arrested Washington Sansole, the director of Associated Newspapers Zimbabwe and a retired high court judge, at his home in Bulawayo yesterday, said Gugulethu Moyo, the group's lawyer. She added that police told her that he would not be freed until all six executives of the media group turned themselves in.

The crackdown follows the publication on Saturday of The Daily News, which is owned by the company, after an absence of more than six weeks. Zimbabwe's only independent daily was banned under sweeping media laws by a state commission, which prohibits publication without its approval. But the commission's ban was overturned by the Administrative Court on Friday.

Within hours of the eight-page edition hitting the streets on Saturday, police arrested 18 journalists and raided the Harare home of the company's chief executive, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, who was away attending a wedding. Officers instead took away his niece Tulepi Nkomo, 30. The journalists were later released.

Ms Moyo said the company had lost faith in the process of law. She feared the urgent applications to courts for injunctions on behalf of the newspaper or its victimised staff might be a waste of money.

State radio said the newspaper had been operating illegally. The newspaper has been a frequent critic of the country's President, Robert Mugabe, and his 23-year rule. On Friday, the Administrative Court, which handles disputes over decisions made by the government, said the commission had exhibited bias against the newspaper and ruled the commission was "improperly constituted". The commission said it would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Daily News and its sister Sunday publication had not printed an edition since 12 September, when armed police raided their offices. Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, said the newspapers were operating illegally.

The state controls the country's two other dailies and its only television and radio station.

Laws passed in January last year established the media commission and gave it disciplinary powers to withdraw licences, confiscate equipment and jail journalists for up to two years.About 40 journalists have been charged and four foreign correspondents expelled since the law was passed.

Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe's leader since it gained independence from Britain in 1980, has stepped up a campaign against opposition politicians and the independent press since his disputed re-election in March last year.