With inflation soaring above 231 million percent and the economy in freefall, ZimbabweÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s sole lifestyle and entertainment magazine, Trends, has closed down, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.
Bulawayo-based Trends, published by state-owned Zimpapers,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â is being forced to shut down because of lack of adverts and poor circulation.
A Zimpapers official said the decision to pull the plug on the magazine was taken because Trends was making unsustainable losses and failing to meet its printing and running costs.
She said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBecause of the economy companies are being forced to close down and so advertisers are complaining saying they canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t afford to advertise any longer because their businesses are not making enough to pay for the advertising space.
They also say even if they advertise, their clients can no longer afford their goods and servicesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
She says with the shortages of newsprint and ink, Trends was being subsidized for the 5 years of its existence by two other Bulawayo based newspapers, The Chronicle and the Sunday News.
TrendsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ circulation figures never went above the average of 10 thousand copies. Trends and local newspapers such as The Independent, The Herald, The Standard and The Financial Gazette are selling at an average of US$2, turning them into luxury items.
Trends journalists, including founding editor, Edwin Dube, have left the magazine for greener pastures in neighbouring countries. Trends becomes the third high profile magazine to shut down because of the financial troubles bedeviling the country. The other two are Parade and Horizon.
With economic analysts estimating that about 70% of the countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s population lives on less than US$2 per day, the price of newspapers is far beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans.
The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) says the countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s economic catastrophe is plunging the country into an ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“information dark age' as newspapers, radio and television become overwhelmed by multi-million per cent inflation
MMPZ says newspapers have become too expensive for all but a few minorities, while the state-controlled radio and television monopoly services are stricken by chronic power cuts.
MMPZÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s director, Andy Moyse says: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNow it's becoming clear that the nation has been plunged into an even more intense and suffocating information dark age, where reliable information is at a premium and the main means of communicating news is rapidly reverting to word of mouth or SMS.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIn any other country, a newspaper is probably the cheapest item of people's daily expenditure, Here, who is going to sacrifice a loaf of bread to read the Herald?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â asks Moyse.
ZimbabweÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s sole broadcaster, ZBC is also feeling the economic squeeze with its archaic transmission equipment; ZBC only covers 45 per cent of the country and needs about US$ 45 million upgrade its equipment.
The government provided the official signal carrier with a mere US$500 thousand to upgrade equipment, but this was allegedly stolen by fugitive former Transmedia CEO Alfred Mandere.
Moyse says frequent power cuts mean that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œonly those lucky enough to own their own generators – depending on the availability of fuel – have access to information on a fairly regular basisÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
He says rural people are unable to buy batteries for their cheap radios.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Meanwhile MISA Zimbabwe has condemned the MDC for using repressive media laws to harass journalists.
The call comes after several scribes were barred from entering the Prime Minister designates home for a press conference on the deadlock over the sharing of ministerial posts.
The journalists were, pushed, shoved and barred by Morgan TsvangiraiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s security guards because they failed to produce accreditation cards from the government Media and Information Commission (MIC)
Under the Article 19 of the power sharing Agreement between ZANU PF and the two MDC formations, the parties agreed to ensure the immediate processing by the appropriate authorities of all applications for re-registration and registration in terms of both the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)
Misa Zimbabwe says: "Ironically, the Movement for Democratic Change has in the past criticized the creation of the MIC under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the licensing of journalists by the commission".
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Former Daily News Sports Editor, Stanley Gama, who was one of the scribes embarrassed by the security guards, says: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œJournalists are at times harassed to cover MDC functions where they use the same repressive media laws which they denounce. With the power-sharing deal coming in, protection of media practitioners is doubtful.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Freelance photo journalist Smuts Masunda says: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMDC knows that it is hard to get accreditation if you are a free-lancer or foreign correspondent. This hypocrisy on the side of MDC because we have always covered their rallies and functions and they never asked for accreditation. Harassing the media like that MDC is now behaving like Zanu PF. Can you imagine what will happen if the MDC gets into government, if they behave like this?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Zimbabwe Union of Journalist President Matthew Takaona says the barring of journos from attending the press conference reflected badly on the future of the media in the country.
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIf the journalists were truly barred then media law and media reform under an inclusive government look very bleak.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa says ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt was no big deal, it was just a misunderstanding by ignorant guards. It was wrong and we have now corrected the situation. We will make sure that in future it does not happen again.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â