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Zimbabwe police shut privately run daily newspaper

Zimbabwean police closed down operations at the country's only privately run daily newspaper last night, a day after the Supreme Court ruled that the newspaper group was operating illegally.

Francis Mdlongwa, editor-in-chief of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), said police descended on the newspaper's offices in Harare and ordered staff out.

The ANZ publishes the Daily News and its sister Daily News on Sunday. Mr Mdlongwa said the editor, Nqobile Nyathi, and the operations manager had been taken to a police station.

"The situation is that right now, we have been closed down. This is an unprecedented attack on press freedom because after the court decision yesterday, we had made it clear that we were going to comply with the law and register," said Mr Mdlongwa.

"We know that Zimbabwe is collapsing and that there's an attack on independent institutions but we never thought that they would go this far. This is totally unacceptable," he added.

On Thursday Zimbabwe's Supreme Court rejected a challenge by the ANZ over a media law seen by critics of President Robert Mugabe as designed to silence them. The Daily News has been operating without a licence in defiance of the law passed last year. The ANZ had refused to apply for a licence in protest against the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. In its ruling, Zimbabwe's highest court said ANZ should have complied with the law by registering to operate a newspaper before launching its challenge.

The government-appointed Media and Information Commission, which is responsible for licensing media houses, said on Thursday it could impose a fine on ANZ or confiscate its equipment.

Mr Mdlongwa said: "We are surprised they are doing this because we had no intention whatsoever to defy the law."

The newspaper has been in operation for about three years and is accused by the government of being a mouthpiece of the opposition.