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Sanctioned Zimbabwe Scribes: Unworthy Victims?

12 June 2011

By Reason Wafawarova

PRESS freedom is often vociferously preached as a core value to democracy and rightly so. What is not commonly explained is what constitutes Press freedom, much as the world is expected to relent to the supremacist view that says such freedom has an exclusive existence in Western communities and that it can only be exported to the lesser communities of this planet.

The media are the quintessential vehicles through which power speaks to the people and it does not matter that such power is enshrined in radicals like Muammar Gaddafi, nationalists like President Robert Mugabe, supreme accommodationists like Kofi Annan or Jacob Zuma; or in remarkable war mongers like George W Bush and his drone-addict and assasinationist successor, Barack Obama.

The importance of the media to power is the reason journalists carry so much relevance in a world where the majority of them are materially in the class of the poor folk; yet they rank among the wealthiest when it comes to fame.

When journalists speak to power, power listens and if the voice of the journalist complies with the interests of power it is very easy for power to acknowledge Press freedom. It is when journalists stand in the way of elitist interests that power retaliates, and often this is when free expression is only guaranteed as freedom of expression and not as freedom after expression.

The European Union as a power centre has been muscling it out against the person of President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party for the past decade and in this fight some journalists from Zimbabwe's state media have been targeted and victimised as "supporters of the Mugabe regime".

Zimpapers' Pikirayi Deketeke, Caesar Zvayi, and Munyaradzi Huni, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's Reuben Barwe and Judith Makwanya, and freelancer Musorowegomo Mukosi are the six journalists that feature on the EU sanctions list, a list that includes about 200 other people that range from politicians, senior civil servants, and spouses of some of these people.

The EU has a running illegal sanctions regime against Zimbabwe and the blatant violation of the UN Charter and international trade laws has not deterred EU members in their resolve to push President Mugabe out of power.

At this year's Press Freedom Day, one of the sanctioned Zimbabwe journalists, Judith Makwanya, confronted the EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe and demanded to know why she and the five others were "convicted" without trial by the EU in the first place.

The Ambassador, Mr Adol Dell'Ariccia replied, "Some journalists were included on the sanctions list because of the role they played presenting news in a specific period that was considered as inciting hate and violence."

He added, ". . . including journalists on the list of people who are on EU restrictions could be considered as a violation of the freedom of the press but the reason was not that because they are journalists, but because of what they were publishing or saying in their work".

What the ambassador did not do was explain who considered the news from these journalists as "inciting hate and violence" and of course there is no known evidence of any specific news reports that were used to convict them of this alleged crime.

It is common knowledge that the charge of "inciting hate and violence" has been publicly and continually levelled against the state media by politicians and political activists from Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change - not because there is any evidence to prove this assertion but because the MDC-T does not like the criticism that comes its way from these media units; it being so used to be pampered with unwarranted praises for being a saintly party sworn to excellence and supreme democratic values - when it is not beating its own drum through its own mouthpieces - ever-claiming to be a party of excellence.

Caesar Zvayi suffered a double tragedy of being included on the July 2008 EU sanctions list when he had left the employment of Zimpapers and joined the University of Botswana as a lecturer. Clearly his role as a practising journalist had ceased but that did not stop the vindictive EU from pretending that he was still at Zimpapers.

Zimbabwe National Association of Student Unions (Zinasu); the MDC-T Information Department, then led by Nelson Chamisa, and other MDC-T activists based in Botswana resolved to go after Zvayi's newly found job at the Botswana University, petitioning the university authorities to terminate Zvayi's employment though his lectures were highly subscribed.

These are the same people telling the EU today that Zvayi was and is still guilty of "inciting and hate and violence". How ironic!

The UB authorities did not yield to these pressures and Zvayi for a while thought he had the professional protection he needed. He was quite candid when asked by Botswana's television network about allegations that were being levelled against him.

Zvayi said, "I make no apologies for supporting Zanu-PF because I subscribe to its Pan Africanist values." He added, "I will never support the MDC as currently constituted because to me it is a counter-revolutionary Trojan-horse that is working with outsiders to subvert the logical conclusion of Zimbabwe's revolution."

His political opponents then turned out to Botswana's president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, a very close ally of Morgan Tsvangirai and a publicly known Western point man within Sadc.

Khama obliged by ordering the deportation of Zvayi from Botswana on the 8th of August 2008, the very same way he had ordered the deportation of Professor Kenneth Good in 2005, who was also a lecturer at the same university. He invoked his draconian "Presidential Powers" that are deemed incontestable at law in Botswana.

Professor Good had committed the unforgivable crime of presenting a public lecture that highlighted the lack of internal democracy within the country's governing Botswana Democratic Party, especially the monarch-like way by which Ian Khama left the army to simply take over the country's leadership at the approval of only one man, the outgoing President Festus Mogae, himself appointed by Sir Ketumile Masire who succeeded Iam Khama's father and founding Botswana president, Sir Seretse Khama.

Zvayi obviously got the furious side of Ian Khama for his public utterances against the MDC-T, a party so favoured by the president of a country on whose soil Zvayi happened to make those comments.

So, the victory of immature and rabid political activists from Zinasu, together with the draconian usurping of university autonomy and powers by Ian Khama, were what got publicised by Western media and others as a victory for democracy. And such banality is the measure by which a supposedly civilised and highly conscious EU takes its own decisions.

These rabid MDC-T activists went on a campaign to silence Peter Mavunga in 2008, who was then a columnist for The Herald. They accused him of "propping up the Mugabe regime", whatever that means. Then editor of The Zimbabwe Guardian, otherwise known as talkzimbabwe.com, Itai Garande was also targetted, and like Mavunga stopped running The Herald column, Garande also quit his post.

Lloyd Msipa was also targetted in the UK, and this was because his opinion pieces were viewed as exposing the MDC-T weaknesses and therefore "derailing the journey to democracy" and "delaying democracy". He too largely went silent after the harassments.

This writer was targetted by the same lunatic MDC-T activists and their Western side-kicks in 2007. Like Mavunga, this writer is a columnist for The Herald, and a Pan Africanist whose resolve to defend African independence is enshrined in the slogan "Homeland or death!"

Then, this writer was a student at Macquarie University in Sydney and also working for an arm of a United Nations agency. Both the university and the employer were flooded with hate-filled and character-assassinating e-mails carrying the most horrific of allegations.

It was baselessly claimed that this writer had committed atrocities in Zimbabwe before "fleeing" to Australia; that he had "invaded and occupied" two white owned commercial farms somewhere in Shamva, after "murdering the owners in a chilling way"; that this writer had "trained and commanded militias", who went on to "wantonly rape and kill MDC-T supporters", and that this writer's name was not Reason Wafawarova, but some unnamed son of Didymus Mutasa, then the Minister of State Security in President Mugabe's Government.

It was a script designed for The Hague.

Macquarie University and the then Attorney General of Australia, Phil Ruddock; advised the fabricating activists to contact the Commissioner of Australia's Federal Police, and of course the accusers, or is it defamers, were totally disappointed by this move because they knew that the police would require evidence and proof for every allegation. So they temporarily disappeared.

But, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Wendy Carlisle did not disappear at all. She insisted this writer was using a fake name and demanded birth certificates and all forms of identity which this writer provided. She was not convinced and, she went on to carry a defamatory radio show repeating just about all the fabricated allegations that the rabid MDC-T activist were peddling against this writer. She largely used rabid online publications set up by MDC-T activists based in the United Kingdom.

This writer took legal action against Wendy Carlisle's employers and the matter was settled in this writer's favour, albeit out of court. Then the same activist started another campaign directed at the Australian Immigration Minister.

On January 5 2008, this writer received a letter of intention to cancel his right of stay in Australia from the minister. It was the same baseless set of character assassination allegations cited by the same lunatic activists to elicit the minister's unfavourable decision - of course by trying to mislead him through blatant lies.

Again, this writer had to resort to another expensive legal process, and yet again this writer had to be saved by the power of the law. At least there was opportunity to do so, unlike in Botswana where Khama is above such laws.

It is quite informing that these horrible ordeals for writers and journalists did not attract any media attention from the mainstream Western media, unlike the fate of one Basilton Peta, who fled Zimbabwe because he claimed to be on a "hit list" compiled by state agents, and that he had "bullets pushed under his door".

Leonard Doyle, an editor of London's The Telegraph described Peta as a "very distinguished journalist" who was a target of "draconian" and "unconstitutional" media laws.

The BBC weighed in and declared Peta was a man whose "love of his country and his desire to tell the truth drive him to stick his head above the parapet".

This was after Peta fled Zimbabwe in February 2002, claiming that his life was in danger. In fact, Peta was fleeing the police because he had fabricated a story that he had been arbitrarily arrested and detained by the same police.

London's Times then reported that Peta had admitted to fabricating the story about being jailed overnight in a wretched cell.

In fact, Peta had lost his job with the Financial Gazette and he was running to South Africa under pretexts of persecution to gain sympathy and a new job there.

Even after discrediting himself like this, Peta enjoyed a lot of positive coverage from the Western mainstream media and they portrayed him not as a liar and fabricator of falsehoods that he was, and still is, but as a legend in a heroic fight against "the Mugabe regime".

When the BBC's Joseph Winter claimed to have fled Zimbabwe in February 2001 the British Foreign Secretary was quick to point out that "expelling journalists cannot prevent the world from seeing what is happening in Zimbabwe or anywhere else."

Equally, sanctioning Zimbabwean journalists for not writing in support of the MDC cannot prevent the world from seeing the banality of the EU, and its unwarranted meddling in the affairs of Zimbabwe, especially the sponsoring of the MDC-T and the discredited efforts at effecting regime change against the person of President Robert Mugabe.

At that time, Peta commented on the case of Joseph Winter. He said, "What the Government has done is confirm that Zimbabwe is being run by a bunch of tyrants determined to destroy any free voice."

One hopes that those who see a bunch of tyrants in Zimbabwe's governance system do also see another bunch of tyrants in the EU structures, especially if the measure used is the silencing of free voices.

There were loud cries of foul play after Andrew Meldrum was deported from Zimbabwe for suspicions of espionage and also alleged fabrication of news reports. The United States, Britain and Sweden led the condemnations against the Government of Zimbabwe.

There were no such harsh condemnations after the US deported an Iraqi journalist from its soil at the beginning of the Iraq invasion. We did not hear these condemnations when the US bombed Iraq's television station, or when they cancelled the accreditation of an independent Al-Jazeera journalist from covering the financial markets because of his station's coverage of the invasion.

Andrew Meldrum was a correspondent for the British's Guardian, a paper which had strong links with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair's New Labour Party, a party that was viewed as rabidly opposed to President Mugabe's government, and also openly determined to topple it.

By the time Meldrum was deported, he had long crossed the lines between journalism and political activism. He was hobnobbing with MDC activists and publicly chanting anti-Government slogans. To many respected journalists in Zimbabwe, Meldrum had become a disgrace. Yet, the coverage that followed his deportation was quite overwhelming, especially from the mainstream Western media.

It is a tradition of Western imperialism to have a propaganda model that consistently portray people abused in enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by Western governments or their client states will be unworthy.

The evidence of worth can easily be read from the extent and character of attention and indignation. The West's practical definitions of worth are political in the extreme and fit well the expectations of the Western propaganda model.

While this differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals, and the public are able to remain unconscious of the fact and maintain a high moral and self-righteous tone. So, we see that there is not much concern about the illegally sanctioned six Zimbabwean journalists and that when some of us continue to be persecuted and haunted there is simply no interest from the selective and biased mainstream media, not until we get persecuted by the West's enemy states.

It is only after the perceived abuse of pliant journalists like Peta and Meldrum that the Western mainstream media focuses on stressing indignation, shock, and demands for justice.

There are often quotations or assertions of outrage, indignation, profound shock, and mourning. Demands for justice are made with unparalleled determination.

In the event of the death of a pliant journalist or activist, steady and wholly sympathetic attention is given to demonstrators, mourners, weeping people, work stoppages, protest marches and expressions of outrage; mainly by unofficial sources. The world will have to know who was killed, by whom, for what cause, causing what amount of outrage, and the script is repeated limitlessly.

There is no expectation for such coverage or sympathy for the likes of Judith Makwanya, not because she and her five colleagues have not suffered abuse at the hands of the EU and their persecutors from the lunatic fringe of the MDC-T, but because theirs is a case of unworthiness. They are simply unworthy victims and as such will be condemned to suffer their fate unrecognised.

Africa we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer and can be contacted on reason@rwafawarova.com or wafawarova@yahoo.co.uk or visit www.rwafawarova.com

 

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