updated 12/19/2003 12:12:48 PM ET 2003-12-19T17:12:48

A judge lifted a ban on Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper Friday, the newspaper’s lawyers said.

Since its launch in 1999, the Daily News has been a platform for criticism of President Robert Mugabe’s 23-year rule. The state controls the country’s two other dailies, and the only television and radio stations.

Police shut down The Daily News and seized its equipment in September after it was banned under strict media laws imposed by the government last year.

Judge Selo Nare backed an Oct. 24 ruling by the Administrative Court that The Daily News be allowed to reopen.

The Oct. 24 ruling was not enforced while the state lodged its appeal, but Nare said Friday the newspaper would be allowed to resume publishing now, even if state attorneys launched a fresh challenge.

“It means we can continue to publish. The judge gave us the order we prayed for. We can get back on the streets as soon as we can practically do it,” said Gugulethu Moyo, legal representative for Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, owners of The Daily News.

The government gave no immediate comment on the ruling. Authorities have ignored at least three court orders against them this year.

In January 2001, The Daily News presses were destroyed in a bomb attack hours after Information Minister Jonathan Moyo described the paper as “a threat to national security which had to be silenced.”

Earlier on Friday, Nare said he was seeking police protection in his court room in the city of Bulawayo after receiving a threatening letter Thursday.

The hand written letter, which Nare gave to the newspaper’s lawyers, accused the judge of bias “against our good government.”

It warned a ruling in favor of The Daily News “will result in serious suffering by you personally and members of your family.”

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