Studio 7 stringers fired


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Several journalists suspected to be Voice of America’s Studio 7 stringers were fired by the state media as well as by the private media which were reportedly under pressure from Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.

The Herald fired sports editor Robson Sharuko, and journalists Tendai Ndemera and Rex Mphisa. The Chronicle fired Sithandekile Mhlanga and the Financial Gazette Godfrey Maravanyika.

Maravanyika said the Department of Information and Publicity in the President’s office and Central Intelligence Organisation had a list of most of the stringers contributing to Studio 7 and were putting pressure on their employers to fire them.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE302, INDEPENDENT MEDIA UNDER THREAT – ANZ HEARING

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE302

2004-02-20 10:39

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

201039Z Feb 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000302

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/PD FOR D. FOLEY, C. DALTON

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014

TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO PINR ZI

SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT MEDIA UNDER THREAT – ANZ HEARING

POSTPONED, STUDIO 7 REPORTERS SACKED

 

REF: HARARE 223 AND PREVIOUS

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Supreme Court has postponed a hearing

on The Daily News’s (TDN) consolidated appeal, and the paper

remains unpublished. Tension between management and

journalists resulting from GOZ pressure on ANZ also may be

hindering the paper’s ability to publish. The GOZ has

expanded its assault on independent journalists by pressuring

other newspapers to fire stringers for VOA’s Studio 7. END

SUMMARY

 

Supreme Court Postpones TDN Hearing

———————————–

 

2. (SBU) On February 18 the Media and Information Commission

(MIC) and the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ)

consented to Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s proposal to

postpone the Supreme Court hearing on The Daily News’

consolidated appeal (Ref) until March 3. ANZ lawyer Mordecai

Mahlangu said the hearing was to cover whether ANZ could

challenge the constitutionality of the provision of the

Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)

requiring mass media companies to register; an appeal by MIC

on whether it was in fact improperly constituted as the

Administrative Court ruled in October 2003; and a

confirmation that ANZ could exercise its right to publish per

that ruling. The hearing was postponed because the

Administrative Court failed to finalize documents normally

used in a Supreme Court hearing. Mahlangu said the March 3

postponement was not unreasonable and both sides were pleased

they would have additional time to prepare their arguments.

 

3. (SBU) On February 17 the High Court dismissed an urgent

application by ANZ to have its journalists accredited by the

MIC. Justice Alphas Chitakunye said the application was not

urgent and should go through the normal channels. The rules

under AIPPA say that the journalists should be allowed to

work while waiting for their applications for accreditation

to be considered. Fearing repercussions, however, and

possible arrest without registration they have refused to

work. Mahlangu said ANZ had not decided yet whether to

pursue registering its journalists via normal channels.

 

Tension Between TDN Journalists and Management

——————————————— –

 

4. (SBU) Insiders report that pay grievances between TDN

journalists and ANZ management are now also contributing to

TDN journalists’ refusal to work. On January 26, TDN

journalists struck, demanding higher transport allowances and

a 1000 percent salary increase. The sit-in ended on January

27 after ANZ management agreed to a transport allowance

rescue package of Z$150,000 (US$41) for January and February,

and Z$300,000 (US$82) monthly thereafter for each employee.

On or about February 11 a management crisis committee and a

workers committee agreed to monthly incremental salary

increases up to 960 percent by September. (Before the

negotiations, a senior

journalist at TDN earned a gross salary of Z$300,000 (US$82)

monthly and took home about half that, whereas a senior

journalist at the leading government paper, The Herald, earns

a gross salary of Z$2.4 million (US$649) and takes home not

less than Z$1 million (US$270).) Reportedly, TDN employees

also blame ANZ’s management and legal team for failing to

register the organization and the journalists in the first

place and steering the newspaper into this crisis.

 

Studio 7 Stringers Fired

————————

 

5. (C) On February 16, The Herald fired sports editor Robson

Sharuko, and journalists Tendai Ndemera and Rex Mphisa

allegedly for writing for VOA’s Studio 7. Sharuko said that

when he was fired suspected Central Intelligence Office (CIO)

agents accused him of being an enemy of the state and showed

him a list of Studio 7 stringers that included his name.

Sharuko said that after he was fired he met with a CIO agent

from his hometown who told him that there were plans underway

to continue following and harassing him and that he would not

be allowed to flee the country. Nevertheless, Sharuko

successfully fled to South Africa on February 19. In

October, the government-controlled daily “Chronicle” based in

Bulawayo fired Sithandekile Mhlanga allegedly for working for

Studio 7. Another stringer, Godfrey Maravanyika, was fired

from the semi-independent weekly “The Financial Gazette” in

November 2003. Maravanyika said the Department of

Information and Publicity in the President’s office and CIO

are in possession of a list of most of the stringers

contributing to Studio 7 and are putting pressure on their

employers to fire them. Earlier this month The Herald

published an article by Nathaniel Manheru, widely recognized

to be a pseudonym for Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo,

that named Maravanyika and other Studio 7 stringers and

congratulated the Financial Gazette for firing Maravanyika.

 

Comment

——-

 

6. (C) Although both sides accepted the Supreme Court’s

postponement of the ANZ hearing, it plays into the

government’s hand by delaying decisions that would permit TDN

to re-open. TDN’s problematic labor situation is just the

kind of symptom the GOZ intended to induce with its

legalistic campaign to intimidate and harass TDN and its

personnel.

 

7. (C) Comment continued. Whether or not MIC is declared

improperly constituted by the Supreme Court, under AIPPA ANZ

journalists should be able to work pending the outcome of

their applications as journalists. However, the journalists

have refused to work without licenses, and ANZ has not yet

decided whether to pursue its journalists’ licensing via

normal channels. Licensing via normal channels is in itself

a complicated issue as an Administrative Court ruled in

October that MIC, the body which would license journalists,

was improperly constituted. The root of TDN’s problem

continues to be an operating environment chilled by

repressive laws and relentless government efforts to bleed

the paper out of existence.

SULLIVAN

(77 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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