Zimbabwe bans third private newspaper in a year

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The Independent Online

Another independent national newspaper was shut down by the Zimbabwe government yesterday - the third in less than a year.

Another independent national newspaper was shut down by the Zimbabwe government yesterday - the third in less than a year.

The banning of the weekly Tribune follows the forced closure of the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday in September last year. Several provincial newspapers were forced to close in 2002 because they could not afford the hefty deposits that had to be lodged with the state-run Media and Information Commission (MIC) under a new media law.

The Tribune had recently been bought by an MP from the ruling Zanu-PF, Kindness Paradza. But the newspaper quickly established a reputation for condemning human rights abuses. Mr Paradza, a former journalist, was suspended from Zanu-PF last month. He criticised Zimbabwe's restrictive media laws in his maiden speech in parliament in March. He said the laws, which also prohibit private broadcasting, discouraged investment in the media. The speech was condemned by his party chiefs who accused him of conspiring with Britain against President Robert Mugabe.

When Mr Paradza travelled to London to try to establish a market for the newspaper among Britain's large Zimbabwean community, Zanu-PF accused him of seeking funding from Britain to undermine the government. He was suspended from the party and is expected to be expelled.

Mr Paradza said the banning of the newspaper was a "barbaric act" and vowed to fight it in the courts. He said he had received a letter from the MIC yesterday saying that his newspaper's licence had been revoked for a year.

The reason given for the closure was that the Tribune had changed ownership and directors without the MIC's permission. But Mr Paradza said his paper was being targeted for its independent editorial policy.

Under the 2002law, all news organisations and journalists are required to seek licences to operate from the MIC. Scores of Zimbabwean journalists have been refused registration. All foreign correspondents who used to be based in Harare have been expelled.

The Tribune was launched on 1 June 2002, publishing a business edition on Thursdays and a general news one on Fridays. The two have since merged into a single weekly.

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