Zimbabwe newspaper vendors hailed
Harare- The United States Embassy and local media partners on Tuesday hailed the contribution of newspaper vendors to press freedom, noting that they are on the sometimes dangerous frontlines of promoting press freedom by making information available to citizens.
Various speakers, including Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, noted the many instances in recent years of vendors being targets of political violence or demonstrations, with some having their products taken from them or destroyed while others are chased or attacked for selling media products.
“While I face strong and sometimes brutal verbal attacks in my line of work, I have not gone through that,” said Charles Ray, U.S. Ambassador.
“This is our chance to say ‘Thank You’ to you hard-working and brave people. You are an integral part of information freedom because you facilitate our access to the printed media,” stated Ray speaking at the vendor recognition ceremony hosted jointly by his Embassy, Munn Marketing Private Limited and the Media Centre to mark World Press Freedom Day (May 3).
Nearly 150 newspaper vendors gathered at the Embassy’s Eastgate auditorium for the event. “If it was not for all the things that you did, the Daily News would not have taken off in the manner it did from 1999-2003,” said Masunda, mayor of Harare and former chairman of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe.
Masunda noted that the editorial team at the time attributed much of the success of the Daily News to suggestions for news and information content made by vendors. The mayor invited the vendors for tea at Town House to discuss how city authorities could make the vendors’ work more safer as well as collaborate to keep the city clean.
“Quite often when we write about the lack of media freedom, we ignore these people, but they really are critical, and like journalists, they also pay income tax,” said Raphael Khumalo, chief executive officer of Alpha Media Holdings Private Limited, parent company of Munn Marketing Private Limited.
Khumalo noted that the number of individual subscriptions is very low; most Zimbabweans buy newspapers from vendors on a cash basis. Khumalo said the vendors under the Munn Marketing stable sell various titles under the Alpha Media Holdings and the Financial Gazette in addition to regional publications.
Earnest Mudzengi challenged publishers to empower vendors and encourage them to use social media which is now available via mobile phones. “Vendors should be part of the new media to facilitate the practice of citizen journalism,” said Mudzengi.
Three vendors – Feres Gogo (Central Harare), Noah Mukandiona (Mbare Bus Terminus) and Norman Chibanda (Chitungwiza) – received prizes for having sold the highest number of copies in the month of March. The vendors received World Press Freedom Day t-shirts especially designed for the day by the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section.
The United Nations Education, Scientific, & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organizes World Press Freedom Day commemorations every year around the world to focus on some of the most important questions about free media. The Day is also meant to support those people who are on the front lines working to advance free expression, including newspaper and magazine vendors. – ZimPAS© May 2011.