Nepal, India, and Zimbabwe: the Beginning of a Daily Dose List

Scroll, read, click, and close, crumple, throw away – this is the normal, and intended, cycle of daily news consumption. Certain stories stand out in the moment and take over news feeds episodically, while others remain in our searches or in the public psyche for longer stretches of time. And then, we often forget about the pieces we’ve read, or don’t always keep track of them, even if they have prompted us to think differently or more deeply about something in the present.

This post is the beginning of a written tracker to keep up with these trends of news in the different countries visited as much as possible from January 26, 2018 onwards, and space to analyze and log the things I’m reading. I realized that I’m doing this all the time without more formalized documentation- all this kind of fitting into the “sponge” mode of my year so far- and want to start up a practice of reading and writing daily about the trends I’m noticing- and have noticed. Sometimes, I’ll back track and mix it up with some analysis and events from earlier in the year, and hope to also use this space to draw connections between the places discussed and, when relevant, bring in the U.S. (though I’ve purposefully been following media local to where I am more than back home).

My goal is to compose these “am reading” lists as much as possible, with at least one article from each of the places I’ve visited as of the date of posting- these articles will be a mix of what appears to be the most widely circulating stories and articles from publications outside of the mainstream, or stories that I found to be thought provoking or elevating of important or untold perspectives. I’ll give particular attention to stories about media censorship and media analysis as well- and occasionally just throw in random, fun stuff I loved. I’ll also briefly walk through a bit of my news searching process and talk about things I found interesting about articles popping up in each country’s media.

Enjoy, and as always, please feel free to share recommendations or ideas about this evolving list!

January 26, 2018.

Zimbabwe:

Today is my second full day in Harare, and I’m currently at the Moto Republik office reading the news amidst sending some emails and trying to plan out the next few weeks in Zimbabwe (which I’m very excited about!). First, a bit of a nod to where I’m at: Moto Republik is a creative hub for young people, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe according to its website, as well as a space for community events, collaboration, and discussion.

The building, with one multi floor arm and many rooms, is located down a quiet side street but is home to many vibrant creative ventures. It’s the base of Magamba TV, a political satire show, Bustop TV, a group which creates creative video material for a mix of platforms, and Open Parly ZW, a youth-focused initiative which seeks to engage people in providing close reportage on parliament and government, among many other very cool projects and people who work here. The environment is lively and open, and my time here has already included a number of interesting experiences: a lecture with documentary filmmaker Tariq Nasheed, watching a Bustop TV filming of its regular video footage “The Week,” blasting the finance minister, and attending a session of parliament with a reporter, Pretty Chavango, from Open Parly.

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The set up for a Magamba TV spoof of a finance minister.

Most days, a journalist from the network goes to live tweet and report upon proceedings- there’s a designated press section, situated on a balcony above the Parliament (which has 210 elected members with constituencies- on the day that I was there, there appeared to be many vacancies and green benches which were vacant) and a section for the public. Members of parliament were talking closely, looking over documents, and creating a quiet purr that made it hard to fully hear the people making testimonies- the walls behind them, slightly yellow, showed a single taxidermied leopard and two deer heads.

Since I don’t have press accreditation, I could not go into the press section with Pretty, so we sat together in the public section with a couple of officials in uniform and one other woman. According to a sign with a long list of specific to-nots, you may not: eat or drink, converse, take photos, take audio recordings, sleep, use your cell phone, etc. while in the section, so we went into observation mode (with yes, a little bit of conversation… But let it be known, too, that the guys in uniform next to us were sitting on their phones) as testimonies began just before 3 pm.

Across from us sat the press: five reporters, one of whom from Open Parly, and the others from a mix of digital outlets and print newspapers; “the usual faces,” Pretty says, unless the President is coming into parliament or an especially important bill is being discussed. In that case, reporters will often have to stand and crowd the small space, which she says is often difficult to hear and take photos from given the elevated positioning of the nook behind the Speaker.

The goal of Open Parly is to engage citizens in covering Parliament and engaging in local governance, while also publishing material that informs citizens about decisions and laws in process. Many people do not know about or actively seek out information about what’s going on in Parliament, Pretty says; she herself did not know much before she began to work for Open Parly about two years ago. Open Parly seeks to change that and report upon the day-to-day press conferences, legislations, and affiliated events, while also making the material engaging- because just tweeting about bills in discussion can become boring. Open Parly will tweet photos of, say, a politician asleep; or note the dynamics of an argument, quote people directly, take videos and use Facebook Live.

On the afternoon of January 26, 2018, the Parliament of Zimbabwe discussed a protocol set forth by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare on the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Employment and Labour, in terms of a particular section which has not yet been enforced or made to align with the current labor laws. As an Open Parly tweet reads, quoting member of parliament Mashakada: “we must adopt this protocol because it important for Zimbabwe, there is need to harmonize the Labour Act… Linked to this protocol is Labour mobility, labour should be able to move freely in the SADC region.” In the morning, Parliament had been discussing the lack of funding for sports more broadly, but specifically in terms of football.

A testimony from Francis Nyamutsamba, a sports anchor and reporter, is quoted in part on Open Parly’s Twitter: “Football in Zimbabwe can not develop because no one is actually administering the football. This is how grave the situation is at ZIFA , Zimbabwean football has been destroyed totally, completely… We are putting funds in the senior team yapera (full of worn out) 30-32 year olds , and neglecting investing in youthful teams that means in the next 3-4 years Zimbabwe will have no national team… Footballers are upset that their game has been infiltrated by self serving people who have no interest in the sport, no country wants a Zimbabwean footballer anymore… The problem is in management, tauraya bhora tega ( we have killed football ourselves).”

I found these articles on Open Parly-“a portal for young Zimbabweans to engage in their future, the future of the nation and the decisions that will impact on what our Zimbabwe should look like… The aim of the project is to increase citizen engagement in our communities.” 

 News Day– “an independent media house free from political ties or outside influence.Our desire is create a conversation with Zimbabweans about the issues that matter in the country and enable maximum participation so that our newspapers and online offerings reflect as diverse a range of perspectives as possible. In so doing we hope to be part of the process of national healing, nation building, reconciliation and reconstruction.”

The Zimbabwean– an online portal and “voice for the voiceless… a torch-bearer in the face of overwhelming state propaganda and a news blackout on state-sponsored terrorism, corruption and human rights abuses. From February 2005 until October 2015 the hard copy was distributed free of charge to disadvantaged rural communities, comprising mainly women and youths, inside Zimbabwe, while all content was also available on line. In line with modern trends, the newspaper has become an online publication.” 

and 263 Chat– an online space created as a way of “participating in progressive and national dialogue in Zimbabwe. The use of the internet and the numerous social media tools available play an integral role in this entire process. Zimbabweans are already engaged in numerous conversations about their daily lives in Zimbabwe and beyond. 263Chat aims, in part, to amplify their voices.” 

to be particularly interesting in terms of getting a feel for the current political scene. Right now, the politics beat is the main priority of journalistic outlets- a couple of reporters here have told me that the environmental and health beats are very small, as there is no space for coverage of these issues on most Zimbabwean platforms. Among the biggest issues of discussions are the upcoming elections, set to happen in June or July 2018, the first with the new government in place under President Emmerson Mnangagwa after the infamous former President Robert Mugabe was removed from power after 37-years in office (according to Pretty, who was reporting in Parliament the day of the announcement of his official resignation, members of Parliament jumped out of their seats and onto benches; everybody was celebrating).

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Current President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“The Way Out of the Zimbabwe Crisis is Through Elections.” By Kofi Annan. November 23, 2017. This was published originally just after the coup in November, but I found it to be an interesting read and reflective of the sense of hope that some Zimbabweans I’ve talked to so far have said that they have with a new present in office and elections coming.

“Elections before July: Mnangagwa.” By Tatira Zwinoira/Everson Mushava. NewsDay. January 25, 2018. This short news piece is informative about the latest dialogue on elections coming out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where Mugabe traveled to and participated in some extensive talks about the state of Zimbabwe and his policy plans. It  also offers up a voice from a scholar who speaks against Mnangagwa’s statement about holding elections before July, saying that this is actually unconstitutional unless Congress dissolves- this shows a great contrast to the piece linked below.

“ED Meets IMF, World Bank Chiefs.” By Happiness Zengeni. The Herald. January 26, 2018. Curious to see how The Herald, the daily state-run newspaper, covered this statement, I sought out this article, which was placed first on the page’s rotating carousel. This piece actually provides a thorough walk through of the different topics Mnangagwa discussed with foreign leaders, including infrastructure reform, road construction, tourism, agriculture policies, and foreign investment- but, interestingly, it did not include any information on upcoming elections or Mnangagwa’s statement about his hopes for a July date and willingness to concede if he loses.

“Anti-Corruption Body Overwhelmed by Cases, 150 Reported in January Alone.” By ZBC. The Zimbabwean. January 26, 2018. While The Herald coverage indicates an alignment or pro-state leaning in its reporting, this piece reflects The Zimbabwean’s more critical coverage of government. Here, a summary from the first two paragraphs:

“A floodgate of cases of corruption are being reported at the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) since the coming in of the new political leadership. Commissioner Silukhuni said close to 150 cases have been reported this month alone compared to about 200 cases which were reported in 12 months for the past years. She attributed the development to public confidence in ZACC which came as a result of the political will shown by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa. ZACC said there is need for legislative reforms to ensure protection of witnesses and incentivise whistle blowers.”

“Mixed Feelings Over ED’s Davos Trip.” By Jeffrey Ncube. 263Chat. January 26, 2018. This piece discusses Mnangagwa’s time in Davos- but brings in voices from five people, collected in interviews and on Facebook comments. The article is brief but it highlights a different approach and captures peoples’ sentiments in an informal format. There seems to be a general sense that people closely listened to and followed Mnangagwa’s performance at the World Economic Forum, and some expressed hope. Linda Makuyana Ncube is quoted as saying, “l must say l am proud of my President a leader who is willing to face the tough questions and open to engage l can already see a better Zimbabwe let’s unite my people.” In slight contrast, Pardon Dzangare said that Mnangagwa, “is no saint as well, as he was part of the group but I would blame Mugabe more as he was the captain of the ship.”

Also: I loved this video feature on a female bus conductor, posted a few days ago on 263 Chat.

A Day in the Life of a Female Hwindi. By Joseph Munda. 263Chat. January 24, 2018.

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India:

Today, January 26, is Republic Day in India; the day that, originally, was celebrated as Independence Day, but later became Republic Day, when the Constitution of independent India was passed in 1950. This piece on Scroll, a digital media outlet that publishes news features with angles oft-not taken or with a deeper approach than hard news, does a really good job laying out the actual events on Republic Day in 1929. Thousands of people, alongside President Jawaharlal Nehru, gathered on the banks of the Ravi River in Lahore, all ready to take a purifying plunge of Purna Swaraj, which means complete self rule- but, in actuality, this moment had a unique significance to each of the groups present. Haroon Khalid writes a great piece on this.

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“Republic Day story: On Ravi’s banks, a pledge that shaped the course of modern India 88 years ago.” By Haroon Khalid. Scroll. January 26, 2018.

Although not as current, I just finished reading this piece in The Caravan, a monthly magazine, about the parallel rising of the alt-right in India and the U.S. Each month, The Caravan publishes at least one piece of extensive reportage for its print issue and this one came out on the cover of the January magazine, which sported a red background and swastika on its cover. This piece is very well written, thorough, and deeply reported.  the author, Carol Schaeffer, has been covering the alt-right movement around the globe for years.

“Alt-Reich: The unholy alliance between India and the new global wave of white supremacy.” By Carol Schaeffer. The Caravan. January 1, 2018.

Nepal:

Liz Hawley, a prominent journalist who covered mountain mountaineering and politics in Nepal since 1959, passed away today at the age of 95. I read the piece this morning and was very interested to read about her work as a journalist; she extensively covered mountaineering in Nepal and was essentially a “walking Wikipedia of climbing trivia.” She was a Reuter’s correspondent at a time when coverage of Nepal centered around trekking and mountaineering, and this grew into an extensive archive of details, notes, photographs, and interviews which is now digitized. She also kept close track of Nepali politics for Time Now and Reuters, and eventually these notes were transcribed and formed into a book called The Nepal Scene (want to read this!). Allegedly, she did not like trekking and never went mountaineering herself. Instead, as described by the writer Kunda Dixit, she drove to interviews in a blue beetle and grilled mountaineers post climb in hotel lobbies across Kathmandu: “I like mountain scenery, I think it’s great, I just don’t need to climb them.” Written by Kunda Dixit, the editor of Nepali Times and one of my own mentors and role models in journalism, this piece is a nostalgic transport to journalism of a different kind, an inspiring call to write and record obsessively- and also makes me miss Nepal.

“From Liz Hawley in Kathmandu.” By Kunda Dixit. Nepali Times. January 26, 2018.

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