Press Gazette Christmas appeal: Laptops and cameras for Zimbabwe

In the run-up to Christmas, Press Gazette has teamed up with the NUJ to launch an appeal for colleagues operating in one of the worst places in the world to be a journalist – Zimbabwe.

According to Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general Foster Dongozi, there are still about 3,000 journalists in his country.

He said that the terrible economic conditions mean there is a desperate shortage of computers and cameras to enable freelances in particular to tell Zimbabwe’s story.

Under the Robert Mugabe regime, every independent daily newspaper and broadcaster has been shut down – meaning it falls largely on independent freelances to tell the story of the country without bias.

Dongozi told Press Gazette: “One of the big problems for freelance journalists is access to the internet – they go to internet cafes to write their stories.

“But in a the current economic environment what you can draw from the bank is not enough for a one-way bus ticket let alone alone to operate a computer in an internet cafe.”

Five centres with internet access have been established around the country by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists to allow freelances to research and file stories – but there is still a massive shortage of equipment.

Dongozi said: “We hope to equip them with laptops so colleagues are able to go on writing their stories and to keep the story of Zimbabwe alive.

“We request laptops, computers and digital cameras in particular. One of the problems with the Zimbabwe story is images are not coming out – there are stories but no images.

“We hope our situation will normalise, we are a proud people – we want to get down to some serious work.

“Zimbabwe is a special country and we have hope that things will normalise and we will look back on these problems and ask ourselves what we were thinking. What was going on? How did we allow it to happen?

Dongozi hopes that a power-sharing deal may lead to some resurgence in the country’s media.

He said: “The situation for journalists is very uncertain because our future is dependent on the outcome of the power sharing deal.

“Despite having been signed on 6 September, it’s not yet been confirmed. A lot of our future depends on how certain political parties behave themselves.”

Various banned publications are awaiting confirmation of the deal so that they can again obtain official government registration.

Zimbabwean journalists live not just with the crippling hardship that comes with the state-sponsored destruction of most prospective employers – and 95 per cent unemployment caused by the collapse of the economy – but with knowledge that the penalty for the reporting of uncomfortable truths can be death.

Edward Chikomba, a veteran cameraman formerly with the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, was suspected last year of giving to the western media footage of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai looking badly beaten after he was released from police custody.

He was abducted on 29 March by a group of armed men in a 4×4 vehicle near his home in the capital Harare and found dead two days later after apparently having been beaten to death.

If you have a computer or camera that may be of use to a Zimbabwean journalist, email or call 020 7843 6380.

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