News Day To Go Online on November 2

Harare, – Zimbabwe Independent Group’s NewsDay is set to go online on November 2 following threats by the Permanent Secretary in the Information Ministry , George Charamba that it will shut down the group if they publish without a license.

Barnabas Thondlana, the NewsDay Editor designate said they were taking the threats seriously.

“If we do not get a license we going online on November 2. We are taking the threats seriously. We have already had a launch for the advertisers…we presented the dummy to potential advertisers,” Thondlana said.

Currently there are no laws controlling online media in Zimbabwe although the goverment had tried to hack some news websites.

Thondlana said that the Charamba had also told him that the government would not expedite the announcement of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) although some reports said both President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai had agreed on former Herald and ZBC editor Henry Muradzikwa to be the new chair.

“Charamba said they was nothing special about the Zimbabwe Media Commission…,” Thondlana said.
 
Government however recently announced new names for media boards through Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu which saw former Media Information Commission (MIC) chairman made new chair for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ).

Mahoso, Charamba and former Minister of Information, Jonathan Moyo, who is widely tipped to become Zanu PF’s new political commissar, crafted the oppressive Access to Information and Protection to Privacy Act (AIPPA) which resulted in the closure of many papers and forced many journalists into exile.

Tsvangirai has condemned the appointment of Mahoso to BAZ, saying it was irregular.

Newsday is the new daily newspaper from the Zimbabwe Independent Group stable which has still to be given an operating licence by government. The group also publish the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard. It is owned by mogul, Trevor Ncube who is based in South Africa.

"I will pick you up," Charamba said to a stunned Thondlana in Harare. "If your paper goes on the streets of Harare without a license I will send my boys to get you in your office."

Charamba was addressing more than 30 newspaper editors from Zimbabwe’s diverse media in Harare this week.

Meanwhile Robert Mugabe’s press secretary George Charamba who also doubles up as body guard says he was “hired by politicians to make them pretty”.

In a frank exchange with journalists at a UNESCO-organised workshop on ‘Building Bridges and Closing Gaps – An Editors’ Dialogue Towards Common Ground’, Charamba said politics “plays out throughout the media” and all editors were hired by "political publishers” to represent narrow interests.

Charamba said in Zimbabwe’s “highly-polarised environment”, the media has become “political”.

He said: “If truth be told, in our highly mediased world, politics plays throughout the media. This is why I am here as your Permanent Secretary [in the Ministry of Information and Publicity]. I was hired by politicians to make them pretty. I am politics’ technician. I need you often. I demand you.”

Charamba said like himself, editors were hired by “political publishers” to defend certain political positions.

He added: “In our highly politicised environment, the media is politics, raw politics, which is why you are here as little, imperfect shadows of bickering politicians.

“Like me, you have been hired by political publishers to become their technicians to either defend and deepen the status quo, or to challenge and change it. You need me, the only difference being that some need me alive while others need me in a coffin.”

Charamba, often accused of orchestrating state media bias against opposition parties, said polarisation of the media in Zimbabwe was not “imaginary” but a reality – and his ministry was taking steps to create an “inclusive” media industry helped by the formation of a power sharing government in February.

“UNESCO has put together this roundtable to deal with the problem of a polarised media. It is not an imaginary problem. It is real. Let us acknowledge it,” Charamba said at the workshop held at St Lucia Park in Harare on Tuesday.

He added: “We in the ministry have acknowledged it. In fact the thesis of a polarised media came from the ministry when all of you in the media were still wondering what it is that afflicted you.

“Your ministry has already rejected that polarisation by way of the media indaba we held in Kariba. This was our first tentative step towards rebuilding an inclusive media industry in the country.”

Interestingly, Charamba said, Zimbabwean editors “have not lost one another over professional questions, the fury has not been over training, remuneration, ethics, escalating input costs, distribution, advertisers, tax regime …

“The fury has been over who makes a better prince of power Robert Mugabe or Morgan Tsvangirai; over who makes a better party Zanu PF or MDC. Ladies and gentleman, you have been polarised by politics, not by journalism.

“You have been polarized by politics not because you are victims of politicians, but because you have become political yourselves.”

Charamba said the genesis of the polarisation in the media – with the privately-owned media throwing its lot with the opposition and the state-controlled media swinging behind President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF – was Zimbabwe’s land reform programme started in 2000 which attracted international condemnation.

“The phenomenon of pressman turned political activist hit our newsrooms about the same time of land reforms, itself another political milestone, not a journalistic one,” said Charamba.

He hit out at media bodies in Zimbabwe – many of which he insists have “nothing or little” to do with media interests.

“You guys have tended to be organised by money, never by promptings of your own minds,” he said. “The Voluntary Media Council will never come right until and unless it abolishes itself, to again found itself as a genuine media effort.

“It scares me stiff when violent opposition to the Media and Information Commission is cured by a poor recreation of the same MIC with greater powers implied by the aura constitutionalism. The raw message coming through the constitutional Zimbabwe Media Commission is that better be misgoverned by gods than by mere mortals.”