In a major climbdown, the Zimbabwe government has agreed to bypass the
Media and Information Commission (MIC) and appoint a special committee
to deal with the licensing of the banned Daily News and its Sunday
title, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.

This comes after the Attorney-General’s office advised the Information Ministry to comply with three previous court orders that ruled that an ad hoc committee should be put in place since the government-controlled MIC was too biased  to deal with the Daily News.

In her February 2006 judgment, Justice Rita Makarau ruled that the MIC board and its chairperson, Dr Tafataona Mahoso was biased against the newspapers’ publisher Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) and therefore the MIC should be reconstituted or a special committee appointed to deal with the case.

She had based her decision on a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that noted that Mahoso had made "certain utterances and remarks about the applicant that were likely to make any reasonable man conclude that ANZ was not going to have a fair hearing".

Meanwhile, the trial of award-winning photojournalist, Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi failed to proceed after his lawyers argued that the MIC was charging him under the wrong section of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Beatrice Mtetwa, Mukwazhi’s lawyer, said the MIC had charged Mukwazhi under a clause relating to application to operate a mass media service, although he has never applied to operate such a service.
The Zimbabwean newspaper journalist Gift Phiri was two months ago freed by the courts after it was discovered that the state was charging him under a nonexistent law.

The MIC says it is going to come up with a fresh charge and re-summon Mukwazhi who freelances for  Associated Press among other organizations.

Mukwazhi is being accused of deliberately lying to the statutory body when he applied for renewal of his 2007 accreditation pertaining to the organizations he freelances for.

Mukwazhi’s troubles with the MIC came soon after he was assaulted three weeks ago by Jocelyn Chiwenga, the wife of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga.

He was attacked while covering opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction president, Morgan Tsvangirayi who was touring shops \ to assess food and goods shortages at the South African-owned chain wholesaler Makro and other shops in Harare.