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Zimbabwe's Media and Information Commission threatens The Zimbabwean

By Wilf Mbanga | The Zimbabwean

17.02.05 | Dear friends and colleagues, Please find below a statement issued this evening in Harare by Tafataona Mahoso, Chairman of the misnamed Media and Information Commission (MIC). I am not shocked or surprised. In the two year's of its existence the MIC has closed down four newspapers. I hope The Zimbabwean does not become the fifth. Do take the time to read this - it's incredible and shows just what we are up against. Interestingly, fraud was also the trumped-up charge the first time I was arrested by the Mugabe regime. The case was thrown out. Wilf Mbanga

The Media and Information Commission, Zimbabwe
Press release No1 /2005
17th February
The Zimbabwean is a gigantic media fraud

The Media and Information Commission is shocked by former daily news co-founder Wilf Banga’s (sic) misrepresentation in the latest media fraud with his The Zimbabwean representing “the voice of the voiceless”.

One of the most sacred principles of professional journalism concerns the acceptance and handling of funds and any other forms of subsidy by a supposedly “independent” and “objective” mass media.

It is a matter of public and professional concern who the funds or subsidies are from; what the funds or subsidies are for; how the funds or subsidies are accounted for and audited; by whom the funds and subsidies are to be audited and what the funders intend the provision of the funds and subsidies to have in the destiny of Zimbabwe to justify the sponsorship of a propaganda outlet for themselves named The Zimbabwean on the eve of a national election.

Purporting to be published in London the Zimbabwean is printed in Ireland and given away at $4000 on the streets of Harare after being flown all the way from Ireland. $4000 does not even pay for combi ride in Harare. A locally published weekly paper of similar size is selling in Harare at Z$10 000 even with adequate advertising support. The Sunday Times of South Africa retails in Harare at Z$15 000 after being shipped just from Johannesburg. It too is heavily supported by advertising.

The Media and Information Commission therefore concludes that the Z$4000 being charged for The Zimbabwean is enough only for a stipend for the vendor. All the other players have already been paid from a clandestine slush fund. That is neither journalism nor is it the way “the voiceless” find voices. It is the way “the purchased” earn their keep.

Such a paper is no better than a missionary tract prepaid in Germany, the USA or Britain, which is brought into the country for free distribution to faithful catechists. Obviously the local couriers must be paid just enough for one combi ride to dish out the tracts. A missionary tract is even better than the so-called The Zimbabwean because it has no need to hide where its real headquarters are situated and who the key bishops are. Mbanga instead wants Zimbabwean readers to believe that he is pope, bishop, editor and the World Bank at once, but there is a clear commercial outrage as well.

Even the reactionary World Trade Organisation would not allow a product concocted in Britain and produced in Ireland to be dumped on a country 10 000 miles away which is only 40% of comparable local product. That is far cheaper than manna form heaven. Here we suspect an imperialist and racist godfather. Therefore the sort of media dumping being perpetrated by Mr Wilf Mbanga with the assistance of European and North American slush funds is wrong on three counts:

1. it violates the most sacred media ethics,
2. it contravenes basic business practice,
3. it abuses and threatens freedom of the press and freedom of expression by using secret slush funds to produce a product intended to undermine national, duly registered and truly sovereign publishers who are making an honest and transparent living by informing their audiences.

The MIC will therefore not hesitate to take the necessary steps to stop those three abuses and to protect our national and sovereign print media industry.

End of statement.

Stamp: Executive Chairman, Media and Information Commission

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