Zimbabwe threatens another newspaper

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The Independent Online

The state media commission in Zimbabwe is investigating another independent newspaper and has threatened it with closure, it was reported yesterday.

The Zimbabwe Standard, the country's only independent Sunday newspaper, said that Tafataona Mahoso, head of the state Media and Information Commission, told one of its reporters that regulators were scrutinising the publication's contents.

"We will be coming to you soon. You are writing lies," Mr Mahoso told the newspaper.

The commission refused to license The Daily News, the nation's only independent daily newspaper, last month, saying it failed to follow proper procedures to get a license and that it published illegally for eight months. The Standard received a commission license under sweeping media laws passed last year. Only licensed newspapers can publish under the new laws.

On Friday, The Standard reported that the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, called the newspaper and its sister weekly, The Zimbabwe Independent, "running dogs of imperialism". "Really, we should shut these papers down because they are trash, they injured our national interest," Mr Moyo said.

The Sunday Mail newspaper, an officially sanctioned newspaper, claimed The Standard was planning to publish a daily edition using some staff from the banned Daily News. The Standard's owners, however, have not announced any plans to ask for accreditation to bring out a daily edition.

The Sunday Mail also alleged "underground forces" were at work to keep The Daily News staff on the payroll while efforts to restart an independent daily are pursued. It said the Media Institute of Southern Africa, a press freedom watchdog, was paying journalists from the banned paper. It added that several international agencies and Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial power, were giving money to The Daily News to keep the newspaper company financially intact during court challenges to their ban.

The Daily News, meanwhile, announced the launch yesterday of a limited electronic edition available on a website in neighbouring South Africa. Five Daily News directors and 15 journalists have been charged with violating Zimbabwe's media laws during a government crackdown against dissent.

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

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