VETERAN BULAWAYO JOURNALIST RUKUNI LAUNCHES ZIM NEWS WEBSITE TO AVOID PRESS LAWS
Exploiting the unregulated publishing platform of the Internet, another Zimbabwe news site has been launched to meet the demand for independent, non-government affiliated news.
Based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, The Insider provides news for the country’s business community covering economics, commodities and stock markets. The publication is independent of the government and major news organisations.
Founded by Charles Rukuni, The Insider began as a printed newspaper in 1990. Rampant inflation this year made printing costs prohibitive and after 13 years, Rukuni was forced to end publication in May. The Insider was re-launched online on September 19 through a US-based server and immediately gave the publication a cost-effective international platform.
"There is great demand for good copy in Zimbabwe," says Rukuni. "Zimbabwe has more newspaper readers pro-rata than even our more developed neighbour, South Africa. "But readers in Zimbabwe are very discerning. They decide which news is true or valid and what is not."
Rukuni feels that the Internet is an important way to provide up-to-date, independent news for Zimbabweans. "The only daily papers in the country are government-controlled and the weeklies do not have daily updates even on their web- sites," he explained. "The Internet is also unrestricted - it helps spread the word across the world. And if the stories are good, they can be picked up by other news agencies."
The Insider faces the typical challenge of developing a reliable income stream for the publication, but Rukuni plans to focus on his audience within the business community. For now, the publication has to deal with the more fundamental issue of web access. "Internet cafes are always filled - especially by the young. Zimbabwe also now has about 10 universities and this helps in boosting web access," he said.
"But the costs at Internet cafes have gone up this week to Z$30 per minute. It’s not much if you translate it to pounds sterling - but it is a lot considering the minimum wage in Zimbabwe."
Rukuni has 20 years’ experience as a journalist and trainer for many publications in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, the US and the UK. In 1992, he launched The Worker, the newspaper of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Rukuni feels that he can report quite safely within Zimbabwe and is awaiting the outcome of his application for registration with the country’s Media Information Commission.
"I think there is a lot of hope," he says. "The challenge is that I know I am being watched, both by the people I have trained and by my readers because most of them probably know more than I do. So I am kept on my toes."