Fuchsia Spring '15Staff Writer
Edna Machirori, 2013 recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, was the special guest at the Global Salon “Writing on the Margins” put on by the Lewis Global Studies Center last Friday. The first black woman newspaper editor in Zimbabwe and one of few women to currently hold that position, Machirori focused the salon on issues of corruption and gender bias specific to Zimbabwe, but applicable, to an extent, internationally and both before and after colonialism.
Machirori explained that the pre- and post-colonial era government turnover changed the levels of censorship, independence, and corruption of newspaper writers. Both before and after Independence in 1980, the Zimbabwean governments used their official newspapers to propagandistically control popular conceptions of itself. Post-Independence, small, independent newspapers offer some hope for free reporting. Machirori has edited and written for both official newspapers and post-independence small newspapers over the course of her over-fifty-years in news reporting.
Machirori remarked that as a result of government control self-censorship resulted from their harsh policies, coupled with low salaries where bribes can be necessary to maintain a salary able to support oneself. Officials would offer bribes for particular support from journalists and editors at different levels, and given the paltry salary they were sometimes impossible to refuse. With newspaper criticism of many individuals, policies, and practices illegal, corruption is present not only in the form of bribes, but the state can easily have the police force detain and arrest dissenting writers. While Machirori said she has never been arrested, she did, however, acknowledge she was frequently at risk.
Often, Machirori turned questions about current social, cultural and journalistic developments in Zimbabwe to her daughter, Fungai, who was also in attendance. Fungai’s own website was discussed as an example of how online journalism offers the benefit of being able to speak independently, both in terms of what is said and how. However, a significant problem with online journalism discussed at the salon is factual accuracy, as online reports often rush “to sell the story,” often sacrificing their journalistic integrity in the process. Fungai gave a recent example of how a sick Zimbabwean politician’s death was cyclically reported and deleted from sites upon growing public inquiries as to his condition.
Female representation in newspapers is an issue that both Machiroris are passionate about.