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ANZ situation has its root in AIPPA: Media botch link
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Extracted of the Weekly Media Update 2004-8
Monday February 23rd - Sunday February 29th 2004

The government-induced ruin of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of The Daily News and its sister weekly, The Daily News on Sunday, attracted considerable media attention. This followed the ANZ's announcement that it was cutting its workforce by 80 percent saying it would be unable to sustain its salary bill if it were to meet its workers' demands of a 960 percent salary hike. Notable however, was the narrow perspective in which the media, especially the government controlled media and The Daily Mirror, interpreted the unfolding events at the troubled publishing house. They failed to relate the ANZ's massive retrenchment to the adverse ramifications of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which has since ensured that the ANZ's two papers remain silenced. Their superficial coverage of the matter also resulted in them twisting the facts by alleging that the ANZ problems were self-inflicted. To support this claim they accused management, particularly ANZ chief executive officer Sam Sipepa Nkomo, of being insensitive to the workers' plight by allegedly refusing to register the ANZ with the government appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC) as required under AIPPA.

Amid this distortion, the objectives behind government's enactment of AIPPA were totally lost: mainly to put journalists on a government leash and police their operations.

The Daily Mirror and government media's glossing over of the real problems besetting the ANZ was epitomised by ZTV (23/2, 8pm). It blamed Nkomo for the publishing house's troubles, adding that the developments at the ANZ confirmed "rumours that Nkomo was put at the helm of the organization to bring it down".

No evidence was provided to support these claims.

Power FM and Radio Zimbabwe (24/2, 6am) carried similar reports. And like ZTV, their accounts did not link ANZ's decision to retrench to the hostile political environment it was operating in.

Similarly, The Daily Mirror, The Herald and Chronicle (24/2) ignored this aspect. They simply dismissed ANZ's cost-saving measure by pointing out that the company's majority shareholder, Strive Masiyiwa, had promised to pay the workers for the next two years even if the company was not publishing. They thus viewed the retrenchment as a cover-up for management's machinations to close down ANZ.

This unsubstantiated perspective of the matter saw The Daily Mirror carry a story under a untruthful headline; Nkomo shuts Daily News. However, Studio 7 (23/2) provided a fresh angle to the matter. It quoted an ANZ administrator saying the staff cuts were a result of the company losing close to $15 million dollars a day in revenue ever since it was forced to stop publishing its titles. Nkomo echoed the same sentiments on Studio 7 (24/2) adding that the workers' demands for a substantial increment "at a time . we are not operational." were the last straw.

But The Daily Mirror comment (25/2), ANZ management betrayed workers, continued with its simplistic attack on Nkomo and his managerial team. It observed that "with the sky-rocketing inflation and the. bad patch the economy is going through, it was obvious that workers would require salary hikes now and then", adding that the money Masiyiwa promised staff "could not be from sales or advertisements generated" by ANZ "because the assumption was that they would not be operating."

Interestingly, ZTV (23/2, pm) did quote Nkomo as saying Masiyiwa's promises to pay workers for two years even if the company was not operational was based on the assumption that there would be "no demands for unreasonable increases in salaries".

This obviously did not calm The Daily Mirror whose comment continued to accuse management of being the "architect of the current mess at the stable" because "they decided not to register in accordance with the laws of the country".

Similar accusations were carried in The Sunday News (29/2). But both papers still distracted their readers on how government, via the draconian AIPPA, had literally hounded the ANZ off Zimbabwe's media landscape.

This was only explored by SW Radio Africa (24/2), which traced ANZ's downfall to 2002 when government promulgated AIPPA. The private radio station quoted legal analysts as saying "it (AIPPA) was enacted with one object in mind; to close the Daily News".

Besides directly linking the collapse of the ANZ to AIPPA, the station also reminded its audiences about how government regularly terrorised ANZ staff since the publishing house began operations in 1999. This persecution also coincided with the bombing of the ANZ's printing press by yet-to-be-arrested culprits.

The Press and ZBC ignored this background.

The nearest any newspaper came to reporting it was when The Sunday Mirror (29/2) quoted one of the ANZ workers as having said "in as much as Information and Publicity Minister.was the force behind the stable's fate, Nkomo was the 'conspirator from within'".

The Financial Gazette merely added a conspiracy theory to the tragedy. The paper quoted some unnamed ANZ workers as having said Nkomo's decision to lay off workers was meant to "coerce donors into throwing a lifeline to the faltering group".

The Chronicle (28/2) echoed this unsubstantiated claim. It quoted an unnamed ANZ worker saying, "They (management) have climbed onto the bandwagon of pro-opposition civic groups who are exploiting the West's fixation with Zimbabwe to extract donations".

Ironically, while The Daily Mirror and the government-controlled media appeared oblivious to the havoc wreaked on the ANZ by AIPPA, journalists in South Africa did.

Studio 7 (23/2) reported that SA's Justice Minister, Penuela Maduna, had "shocked and angered" people at a Pretoria seminar on freedom of expression when he said that he "saw nothing wrong" with registering journalists.

The report duly noted Maduna's apparent out-of-touch statements in relation to the ANZ saga and quoted SA media practitioners pointing out that government's registration of journalists with a view to policing them, as is the case in Zimbabwe, was incompatible with Press freedom.

SW Radio Africa (26/2) reported South Africa's Deputy President Jacob Zuma as expressing his government's wish to see the Zimbabwean Press enjoying the same freedom as that of SA. But any hope that government would respond to calls for it to relax its media laws were shattered when SW Radio Africa (27/2) revealed that the UN had failed to get a government response to freedom of expression abuse charges laid against it by several local and international human rights groups.

Meanwhile, the government's enthusiasm to use AIPPA against the private media, through its hand-picked MIC, was again demonstrated when The Herald (24/2) reported that MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso had "filed a complaint with the police" over a Standard article, which claimed that High Court judge Justice Sandra Mungwira had fled the country to Britain.

Mahoso contested that the paper's editors and writers of the story should be charged with criminal defamation and abuse of journalistic privilege because the report had "criminally defamed" Justice Mungwira, the government and the entire judiciary.

But as the Zimbabwe Independent reported, Mahoso is seemingly unaware of the Supreme Court's nullification of "abuse of journalistic privilege" when it invalidated Section 80 (1), (a) and (c) of AIPPA, a law he is supposed to administer.

Also notable is the fact that Mahoso has remained apparently silent on the violations of the basic tenets of journalism by the government media.

In fact, MIC's partiality and its over-arching role was clearly illustrated when it interfered in a labour dispute in defence of The Herald's decision to dismiss three of its senior journalists accused of freelancing for Voice of America, (The Herald, Chronicle, The Financial Gazette, 26/2 and The Daily Mirror, 27/2). The MIC castigated ZUJ, which it described as a "morally corrupt association", for condemning the dismissal of their colleagues.

Mahoso claimed the dismissed journalists risked "national interest and national security" because the Voice of America is a "propaganda tool" and "an arm of the US State Department, which is on record as seeking to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe through unconstitutional means."

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