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Tribune application dismissed
Zhean Gwaze,The Financial Gazette
July 22, 2004

The High Court has dismissed an urgent chamber application by African Tribune Newspapers (ATN) (Pvt) Limited, publisher of The Tribune, which sought to have the weekly newspaper back on the streets - a decision critics said was a further blow on media freedom.

Last month, The Tribune was shut down after the Media Information Commission (MIC) cancelled its registration for allegedly failing to comply with provisions of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

The judgment was handed down yesterday in the High Court's motion court on behalf of Justice Tendayi Uchena.

Details of the full judgment are yet to be made public.

The High Court decision comes hardly a year after another independent media house, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publisher of The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday, was shut down.

Lawyers representing ATN confirmed the latest blow to the independent media in Zimbabwe, but said they were still to peruse the full judgment.

"We had applied for a provisional order to set aside the MIC's decision to shut down the paper pending the final determination of the provisional order. We were seeking an interim relief order to operate," said ATN lawyer Selby Hwacha.

The Tribune was closed following accusations by the MIC that ATN had not notified the commission of certain changes in its ownership, operations and masthead.

ATN publisher Kindness Paradza described the court's decision as another sad chapter in the country's media industry.

"It is sad in a democratic society like Zimbabwe where The Tribune did not offend anyone," Paradza, the youthful ZANU PF legislator for Makonde, said.

"We wonder why we received this negative judgment. It's unfortunate because employees of The Tribune are going to be on the already long list of the unemployed in this country."

About 300 workers have already been sent on forced leave while management battles it out with the authorities.

Trouble for The Tribune started when the outspoken Paradza openly attacked provisions of AIPPA in his maiden speech in Parliament, saying the repressive law scared away potential media investors.

Immediately after the speech, Paradza was lambasted in the government-controlled media, which accused him of attempting to revive the ANZ through the back door.

The legislator said yesterday he would appeal against the High Court ruling.

"We will exhaust all the legal channels available to have the paper back on the streets," Paradza said.

Tafataona Mahoso, the MIC chairman, declined to comment.

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