BOB GARFIELD: In the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, the regime of President Robert Mugabe continues to tighten the screws on press freedom. The nation's last viable independent paper, the Daily News, was shut down by the government after the nation's high court let stand a Zimbabwe Media Commission decision to refuse the paper a license. This is but one of the administrative barriers set up by Mugabe to legitimize press repression under the rule of law. But the paper's owners continue to use those legal structures to challenge the constitutionality of the restrictions. Joining me now is the Daily News' legal representative, Gugulethu Moyo. Gugulethu, welcome to On the Media.
GUGULETHU MOYO: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: In the last few days, the government has taken steps to go after individual journalists for practicing without licenses, which was another procedural obstacle set up by the Mugabe government to restrain free expression. Has it had a chilling effect? Are you going to be unable in the long run to get journalists to write even for the on-line edition for fear of incarceration or worse?
GUGULETHU MOYO: Yes. I think, you know, the psychological effect of the police action against us is one that we cannot ignore. There quite clearly will be a chilling effect. But we have been talking to our journalists, and they are an extraordinary team of people. You know, they have performed even when we were bombed. Certainly in terms of their legal situation, they're not in the wrong. They did apply, but the commission refused to accredit them. And again, that law requiring journalists to be accredited before they can actually work as, as journalists is being challenged before the court. It was heard on the 22nd of October last year, and the Supreme Court hasn't had a judgment since then. In the meantime, they are being denied their fundamental right to write and express their views as they wish.
BOB GARFIELD:Over the past two years, we've spent a lot of time talking to Andrew Meldrum, a correspondent for the Economist who three months ago was expelled from Zimbabwe by the Mugabe regime. I'm curious to know whether the departure of one of the last Western reporters in Zimbabwe has resulted in a lessening of attention to the repressive climate that you're dealing with there.
GUGULETHU MOYO: No, there still is a substantial body of, of foreign journalists working here, but I think they also have had to [reel up ?] their work and, and what they do in the light of what happened to Andrew Meldrum. Andrew was absolved in a court of law, and still the state felt they didn't like him, and he was evicted. But this has happened to Zimbabweans before. We have a broadcaster known as FW Radio in Zimbabwe, and they won a constitutional application to the Supreme Court, and six days after they had won this application, the president signed into law a statute which actually prevented them from continuing to publish. This legislation was signed into law at 3:00 p.m. At 4:00 p.m., armed police officers had invaded their offices and evicted them and seized their equipment. So it's almost exactly like the experience that we are going through now, and the whole situation is quite ironic, because foreign publications are in a better position than we are. You can buy the Economist here. You can buy a number of South African publications. But I guess it is in the interest of our government to maintain better relations with those nations than with their own people, basically.
BOB GARFIELD:And how about you personally? As the legal representative of the Daily News, clearly you are a thorn in the government's side. Have they made any attempt to intimidate you from proceeding in court, as you've been?
GUGULETHU MOYO: What has happened, you know, over the past few weeks is that police officers have gone to my home, and, and looked for me. Before that, about four months ago, I was imprisoned for three days. One of our journalists had been detained by the police, and I went down to the police station to actually establish why he was being detained, and when I went down there, the wife of the commander of the armed forces turned up at the police station. You know, she had police officers in the back of her, her private vehicle. And when they arrived at the police station, they got out and they were assaulting people. You know, I was sitting quietly, waiting to see the officer in charge. When I received a phone call, she wanted to know who I was. When I told her that I worked for the Daily News, she decided to assault me. After that, she commanded the police to detain me and also to assault me, and, and so I was severely assaulted and detained for three days without charge. After I was released, I went and reported this incident. They said well, please give us the address of this person that you're talking about. We have no clue how to find her. This is in spite the fact that this is a fairly public figure. Now, now arrests have ever taken place since then. What has happened though is that I have been charged with inciting them to demonstrate against a sitting government. Now this is a false charge, totally false. But we believe in what we are doing. We're committed to, to what we are doing, and we struggle on.
BOB GARFIELD: Well, Gugulethu, I wish you all the best and especially for your personal safety, and I look forward to speaking to you again.
GUGULETHU MOYO: Thank you. Bye.
BOB GARFIELD:Gugulethu Moyo is the legal director of the Daily News, the independent newspaper recently shut down by the government of Zimbabwe.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Up next, a very Washington segment: leaks, spin and politics. And something even more contentious: your letters.