By: Angus Shaw, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Riot police shut down the printing plant of Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper Friday, defying a court order that overturned a government ban and ruled the paper could resume publishing.
The staff of The Daily News had been preparing an eight-page edition following the ruling, but the police sealed off entrances to the printing plant in western Harare and ordered everyone to go home, said Editor Nqobile Nyathi.
“We are trying to sort it out, but it doesn’t look as if there’s much hope,” she said.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the government did not recognize the court ruling earlier Friday.
Scores of employees were cleared from the printing plant, though there were no arrests. Riot police also blockaded the paper’s offices in downtown Harare.
The paper had been given the go-ahead to resume publication by Judge Selo Nare earlier Friday.
Presiding at an appeal of the closure, Nare upheld an Oct. 24 ruling by the Administrative Court, an appeals branch of the High Court, that the newspaper be allowed to reopen.
But Moyo said in a statement that Nare did not have the power to overrule the closure of the paper under stringent media laws imposed by the government last year.
“It is patently clear that today’s judgment … has no force of law and thus cannot be implemented,” Moyo said. “While the courts have a duty to interpret the law, the executive (government) has a duty to implement the law, and this is precisely what the government is going to do in this case.”
Since its launch in 1999, The Daily News has been a platform for criticism of President Robert Mugabe’s 23-year rule. The state controls the country’s two other dailies, and the only television and radio stations.
After its shutdown in September, the newspaper launched an Internet edition in neighboring South Africa.
In January 2001, its presses were destroyed by a bomb hours after Moyo described the paper as “a threat to national security which had to be silenced.”
Earlier Friday, Nare said he was seeking police protection in his Bulawayo courtroom after receiving a threatening letter Thursday.
The handwritten letter, which Nare gave to the newspaper’s lawyers, accused the judge of bias “against our good government,” and threatened him and his family if he ruled in favor of The Daily News.