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Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Alternative Perspective on Zimbabwe...

Worth checking Stephen Cowans interesting blogs on Zimbabwe. In the words of the current headline post, Stephen "provides the latest commentary on the misdirection by the Western media in its coverage of the Zimbabwean elections."


  1. Cho,

    Check this out. An article allegedly written by Morgan Tsvangirai in The Guardian was written by a pro-MDC Australian ghostwriter.

  2. He's just nuts..

    I read the first page and saw;

    - a defense of the FARC methods...
    - the weird comparison with Serbia (I guess Milosevic is a good guy now)
    - some odd "inexactitudes" like the idea that the Mo Ibrahim prize is awarded for implimenting "market reforms".. or no mention of the heat Zenawi got (including.. UK aid suspension) after the 2005 elections..
    - a lot of chatter about imperialism and sovereignity..
    - a justification of human rights abuse along with the denial of human rights abuses (ain't that nice ?)
    - the same faulty arguments, Zanu-PF and its cheerleaders have been making.

    It would be nice he was trying to discuss the coverage because there are plenty of supid things said in the western media. But he's not. He's trying to live in his fantasy revolutionary world where everything is a gigantic plot and I guess butchers like Milosovic have to be good people because they had enemies in the West.

    And they call themselves leftists...

  3. It turns out that Morgan is not writing his own articles. Here, an Australian named James Rose is the actual writer of articles that have (first) appeared in The Guardian (UK).

    In James Rose's words: ""I believe good causes need good copy"

    Is there anything more they can do to show Morgan Tsvangirai to be the stooge of the west that he is? Even his ideology of neoliberalism is quickly becoming outdated. And his previously stated intent to turn back landredistribution can lead to civil war.

    However, when it is an Australian who has Morgan Tsvangirai calling forthe presence of foreign troops on Zimbabwean soil, and who then issues a statement that he wants no such thing...

    Anyway, in the words from the Guardian's 'Readers Editor'...

    Open doorThe readers' editor on ... ghostwriters in the storm

    Siobhain Butterworth The Guardian, Monday June 30, 2008
    Article history

    When we read op-ed pieces from political leaders, is it reasonable to expect that these are their own words? You don't have to be a West Wing aficionado to appreciate that political leaders employ speechwriters and press advisors. The idea that Tony Blair might once have been found crouched over a laptop, shouting over his shoulder to Alastair Campbell, "I'll be with you in a minute, I've just got to email this column to the Guardian," seems unlikely when you think about it.

    On the other hand we expect, if the political figure has not actually put fingers to keyboard, that there is a close proximity between the writer of the piece and politician whose name is on it and we assume that he or she approved it. Comment editors can safely assume that the op-ed pieces from politicians that arrive in their in-boxes have either been written, or read and approved, by them because the sender is usually someone working closely with them - often a press adviser. In the unlikely event that the piece doesn't reflect the politician's views the problem doesn't lie with the newspaper.

    When the connection between the politician and the writer is more distant there's no guarantee that op-ed pieces come from the horse's mouth, as the Guardian found last week when Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, disowned a comment piece, with his byline, which called for the UN to send peacekeepers to Zimbabwe. In a letter published in the paper the following day, Tsvangirai said: "An article that appeared in my name published in the Guardian ... did not reflect my position or opinions." Tsvangirai's letter accepted that credible sources had assured the Guardian he had approved the piece but disclaimed it all the same: "I am not advocating military intervention in Zimbabwe by the UN or any other organisation," he said.

    The piece turned out to have been ghostwritten by a writer who works with the MDC. Why did the Guardian use an intermediary? "The MDC is a disparate and diffuse organisation," Toby Manhire, the Guardian's comment editor, told me. The MDC was also in the middle of a political crisis. Tsvangirai had taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare after pulling out of the presidential election amid concerns that MDC supporters would suffer intimidation and violence. The comment desk turned to James Rose, an Australian with a background in journalism and a trusted source for pieces from Tsvangirai as he'd supplied a comment piece from the MDC leader in April. Rose wasn't paid either time, Manhire told me.

    Rose told me he also does pro-bono work for the National Coalition Government for the Union of Burma. "I believe good causes need good copy," he said. He has worked with the MDC on four or five pieces, published under Tsvangirai's name, which have appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post and the Melbourne Age among other newspapers - one that appeared in the Age, last month, also called for a UN peacekeeping operation in Zimbabwe.

    In this case, when Rose got the go-ahead for Tsvangirai's Guardian piece from his contact - an MDC spokesperson who works closely with Tsvangirai - he drafted the article without input from anyone else based on what he already knew. This was unusual but he assumed that because the MDC was in crisis it couldn't do more. He read the finished piece over the phone to his contact, who approved it for publication.

    Readers may be surprised that some comment pieces are put together in this way. I struggle with the practice. It's only one step removed from a politician using a press adviser to write for him, but is the voice authentic? With some hesitation I accept that this type of ghostwriting can be justified, particularly when political instability means that it is otherwise difficult for political leaders to publish opinions in major newspapers under their own names. The critical issue is whether the person whose byline appears on the piece has approved it.

    The practice may leave readers feeling cheated, so the newspaper should not publish a ghostwritten piece unless it has reason to trust the intermediary and has done all it reasonably can, taking into account the political environment in which the political figure is operating, to get confirmation that he or she has sanctioned it. When things go wrong, as they did in this case, the newspaper must act promptly. As soon as Tsvangirai disclaimed the piece it was removed from the Guardian's website and his letter clarifying his position was published the following day along with a blog post from the comment editor offering an explanation to readers. Those were the right things to do.

  4. Random,

    "And they call themselves leftists..."


    Its a broad church..a bit like the C of E!


    "It turns out that Morgan is not writing his own articles."

    Do you have a link to the guardian article that was written for him?


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