news blockIn a dramatic turn of events, the Zimbabwe government has granted the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe’s (ANZ) an operating licence as a mass media service provider six years after its flagship newspaper, The Daily News, was shut down, reports a correspondent.

ANZ are the publishers of both The Daily News and Daily News On Sunday, the two titles which were shut down by the government-appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC) on September 12, 2003.

A special committee set up in September 2008 to review the decision was “satisfied that the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) have complied with the provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

The Special Board Committee on ANZ acting chairman Edward Dube wrote to the ANZ’s lawyers last week advising them it would get the licence. Dube also wrote to Information Minister Webster Shamu advising him of the decision.

ANZ, however, must wait for a few weeks to get a licence following the disbandment of the MIC by a constitutional amendment.

The MIC is to be replaced by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).
The Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders Committee has set August 3  as the day for conducting interviews for people who applied to sit on the ZMC board .

It will forward the names of not less than 12 nominees to President Robert Mugabe who will choose nine.

A power sharing government formed in February committed itself to guaranteeing media freedoms and moved to disband the MIC which was described by a judge as “biased.”

The granting of ANZ’s  licence comes hard on the heels of a government decision to re-admit the BBC and CNN back into the country, 8 years after they were forced out.

But it is the return of the Daily News that could signal a major policy shift by President Robert Mugabe and his allies in the Zanu-PF party.

The Daily News suffered harassment from the Zimbabwe government over many years, including two bomb attacks. In January 2001, The Daily News printing press was blown up when suspected Mugabe security agents stormed the company’s printing factory at James Martin Drive, Lochinvar , in Harare.

The Daily News went for several months without a printing press until the paper was given one by a Swedish firm.

In 2002, Mugabe and his allies in the then Zanu PF government, promulgated the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which required all newspapers and journalists to register with the MIC.

This became the law that would silence The Daily News for six years. Publishers of The Daily News, ANZ, refused to register with the MIC and argued that it was an infringement on the freedom of expression.

On September 10, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that The Daily News was operating outside the law and had to register with the MIC.

Two days later,  September 12, 2003, heavily armed police ordered the paper to close its offices and took all the production equipment including the computers to Chikurubi Maximum Prison where they were locked away.