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No Free Press In Zimbabwe

Two of Zimbabwe's most popular independent newspapers have again been denied permission to publish. The Daily News and Daily News on Sunday, owned by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, were first shut down by the government of President Robert Mugabe in September 2003. On July 19th, the government's Media and Information Commission ruled that the two newspapers would remain closed. The commission had already refused an operating license to a third newspaper, the Weekly Tribune.

Independent media-freedom groups in Africa and elsewhere have denounced these actions. According to a statement released by the Media Institute of Southern Africa, "the commission decision clearly demonstrates the partisan and sinister motives of the commission in its unashamed and brazen disrespect for the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression". And Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, says, "The enforced closure of Zimbabwe's only independent daily and the harassment of journalists is shameful." Ms. Cooper says, "The Daily News must be allowed to reopen immediately and unconditionally."

The Mugabe government seems intent on using media laws as a political weapon to silence those who raise legitimate concerns about corruption, high inflation and unemployment, high food prices, the destruction of housing used by hundreds of thousands of poor people, and the abuse of the rule of law.

A report released in 2004 by Reporters Without Borders documents dozens of incidents of journalists in Zimbabwe being detained, attacked, and harassed. In February, Angus Shaw of the Associated Press, Brian Latham of the Bloomberg financial news service, and Jaan Raath, a correspondent for a German news agency, left Zimbabwe after police raided their offices.

Zimbabwe, says President George W. Bush, "has not been a good case study for democracy in a very important part of the world":

"We are concerned about a leadership that does not adhere to democratic principles, and obviously concerned about a country that was able to, for example, feed herself, now has to import food as an example of the consequences of not adhering to democratic principles."

By stifling a free press, Zimbabwe continues to be what U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called an "outpost of tyranny."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.