Zimbabwe's Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror newspapers have ceased publication and industry sources said the Mirror Group which publishes them has shut down or is soon to do so under the weight of more than Z$500 million (US$50,000) in debt.
Prior to its current financial difficulties the publishing group was believed to have come under the control of the Central Intelligence Organization, which through its proxies had ousted founding publisher Ibbo Mandaza during the course of 2005.
The apparent failure of the Mirror Group marks another turning point in the declining fortunes of Zimbabwe’s once-flourishing publishing industry. The Daily News and Daily News on Sunday ceased operations in 2003 under official pressure, and the Business and Weekly Tribune was shut down by the government in 2004.
Those closures were effected through the draconian and controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or AIPPA. But the Mirror group’s demise appears to have been caused by the current tough financial environment.
Information Officer Takura Zhangazha of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa remarked that the closure of the Mirror titles brings home the reality that journalists in Zimbabwe have become an endangered species.
Intelligence sources said State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa tried to convince the Reserve Bank to throw the group a Z$500 million financial lifeline, but was unwilling to commit his ministry to guaranteeing the loan. “Negotiations are still ongoing,” said the official. “But if Gono remains adamant that is the end of the Mirror.”
Management of the Mirror, which last published on Wednesday, cited a shortage of newsprint as the reason for its non-appearance since then. But insiders said advertisers had shunned the paper since its takeover by the CIO.
Former owner Mandaza, still embroiled in an ownership wrangle with the current owners, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the paper’s total collapse was imminent as the intelligence service lacks business acumen.
Meanwhile, coordinator Andrew Moyse of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe commented Zimbabwe’s media is the poorer for the loss of the Mirror.