- A newspaper to cater for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora is to be launched on 11 February by the founder of the silenced 'Daily News'. The weekly paper, to be called 'The Zimbabwean', is to be published in the UK with a Southern African edition produced in Johannesburg. It aims to become a "voice for the voiceless" Zimbabwe Diaspora.
According to a statement sent to afrol News by the newspaper's founder, Wilf Mbanga, "the initial print run will be 120,000 copies." More than a million Zimbabweans live in exile in the UK and more than two million live outside Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. This large Diaspora is seen as the newspaper's principal market.
The newspaper will give a voice to these Zimbabweans, who by now constitute some 25 percent of the total population. "It will build links and encourage readers to tell their own stories and those of their families, as well as articulating their fears and frustrations about the issues concerning them," the statement by 'The Zimbabwean' says.
Announcing the launch, Mr Mbanga, said the project would seek to harness the energies and synergies of exiles, many of whom constitute Zimbabwe's professional, skilled and intellectual cream. "They are hungry for news about home and effectively cut off from their families and each other. Many do not have access to the internet at work or at home and are dependent upon internet cafes and e-mail," he said.
'The Zimbabwean', a tabloid weekly, says it will focus on news from Zimbabwe as well as life in exile. The content would "obviously have a heavy emphasis on Zimbabwean politics, but will also include arts and culture, business, sports, gender issues, social issues and news analysis." Letters to the editor were to become a key feature, as would classified advertisements.
Current legislation makes it difficult to operate as an independent journalist in Zimbabwe. Many bright, young journalists have been forced out of the country into hardship and unemployment abroad. Some of these have teamed up with Mr Mbanga, who is also the founder of the now-silenced 'Daily News', Zimbabwe's only independent daily from 1999 to 2003.
- I have been deeply touched and encouraged by the willingness with which Zimbabwean exiles have responded to my call to get involved, said Mr Mbanga. "Obtaining independent news from Zimbabwe will be a challenge, as foreign correspondents are banned from entering the country. The various on-line resources, together with some radio stations, have done an excellent job in keeping the story alive since the silencing of the 'Daily News'. We will be maximising synergies with them."
Mr Mbanga said his new newspaper would be dedicated to freedom of expression and access to information for all the peoples of Zimbabwe, "founded on the sacred principles of journalism – fairness and honesty."
- We believe the paper can play a role in drawing attention to so much that is offensive to basic human decency and hostile to peace in our beloved Zimbabwe, said Mr Mbanga. "Such exposure may help the country to return to the path of wisdom, democracy and the rule of law. We believe those in positions of authority and power should be held accountable to those they are supposed to serve and that a free" he added.
'The Zimbabwean' hoped to become "an authoritative and accurate newspaper of record and a reliable source of information to all those individuals, agencies and governments with an interest in Zimbabwe," the founder said. "A news blackout is dangerous for any society. The forthcoming general election scheduled for March adds urgency. We will ensure that our coverage is accurate, fair and balanced. We will be accountable to our readers."
A fair coverage of the upcoming election was seen as important to the new tabloid weekly. "We will endeavour to give all viewpoints, and everyone – including the government of Zimbabwe – will have the right of reply. In short, we will do everything the government newspapers in Zimbabwe are not allowed to do," said Mr Mbanga
The newspaper founder added that his research had led him to believe that a physical newspaper was essential - but 'The Zimbabwean' would also be available online soon after the middle of February, at www.thezimbabwean.co.uk.
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