Police besieged the offices and printing press of ANZ on 12 September 2003, determined to
ensure the publications would not be printed or come out. The government reportedly instructed its officials to use whatever means necessary to ensure that publication would not
happen. Plain clothes security police, accompanied by some 20 armed paramilitary officers
took occupation of the ANZ premises, despite a High Court order instructing them to leave the
premises and return all equipment seized, as well as to refrain from further seizure of the
company’s equipment.
The threat to other private media organizations also deemed by the government critical to it
continued to lurk in the wings.


In early September 2003, the chairman of the Media and Information Commission (MIC), Dr
Tafataona Mahoso, ominously remarked to a reporter from The Independent’s sister paper: “Oh,
you are from The Standard, we will be coming to you. We will be writing to you soon. You are
writing lies, carrying stories with initials as by-lines...”


With the ANZ titles torpedoed, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zimbabwe chapter looked to be the next target appearing on the radar screen of the government-controlled media. While MISA was kept within striking range, it is only the protracted legal hearings over the
ANZ titles that appear to have kept them from bearing the brunt of the government’s displeasure.


In December 2003, two senior officials from the ruling Zanu (PF) instituted a Z$600million
lawsuit against The Independent. Similar litigation has previously drained the coffers of private
media houses making editors think twice before publishing a controversial story that involves the
government and/or its officers. The lawsuits are but one of the many impediments placed in the
way of the private media. Since 2000, unruly ruling party supporters have emerged as one of the
serious threats to freedom of choice, media freedom and freedom of expression. Journalists,
newspaper vendors and distribution staff were regularly assaulted; newspapers were confiscated
illegally and distribution of newspapers was banned in several of the country’s eight administrative provinces.


However, if ever evidence was needed to confirm the state’s direct interest in the forced closure
of the two ANZ titles, the Minister’s outburst seemed to provide proof. Yet up to this stage, the
state had fought hard to portray this as purely a matter between the licensing authority, the Media
and Information Commission (MIC), and Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe.


After the Administrative Court ruled that the ANZ titles could resume operations, following
closure of their offices on 12 September 2003, the government was infuriated. The Minister of
State for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo, vowed, “to use all available legal
means to resist the backdoor approach being used in the case...”. Professor Moyo described the
court’s ruling as “outrageously political”.


Five ANZ directors were arrested on 26 and 27 October 2003 and charged with publishing a
newspaper without a licence. A day earlier, 19 staffers from the company were arrested but later
released after questioning by police. The argument was that they were employed by an unregistered media house, while the workers themselves were not accredited with the MIC.


for constitutional reforms.


State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003

The MIC contends that MISA-Zimbabwe is subverting Zimbabwe’s laws by, “inciting law-abiding citizens to defy the law” and that it must register as a “media service provider”.
So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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