Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Magnificence of Mr Mugabe

Superb thread submission:
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Are ITP and AMG going for the World Dictatorship Tour 2008?

While you might think it was difficult to top the Arabian Business visit to China (one week after the brutal supression of dissent in Nepal) that resulted in some of the least critical commentary in media history, ITP has gone one better by sending Ahlan! to Zimbabwe in the same week it saw the collapse of a democratic election and - hey! - the brutal supression of dissent.

Best quotes? (From the Zimbabwe Chronicle):

"The journalists talked much about their expeditions in the county and one of the touring journalists, Kate Hazell of ITP, a media group with over 200 publications that covers most countries in the Middle East was overwhelmed by the tourism packages, which the country has on offer. "It’s not my first time in Zimbabwe, I was once here sometime back. I didn’t know one can afford to do hunting as well," said Hazell."

Full marks too to AMG's Adam Wilson, who's quoted as saying:

"I work for a publication that focuses mainly on business. Our readers are mainly top business executives and I hope that if I can write all what I have seen they will be interested in the opportunities that exist here both in terms of investment and leisure."
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Next up: Grazia covers Pyongyang Fashion Week.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Adam Wilson quote:
"Our readers are mainly top business executives"...
Hahahahaa. Yes mate, of course they are.

Anonymous said...

It's not so much the journalists, who are invited and therefore should attend - to give a balanced and fair account of what is happening in Zimbabwe, but which PR agency is fronting this? Clearly a campaign if hacks from ME and far east are invited... looks too sophisticated for a random encounter...

Scorn where scorn is deserved i believe...

head down said...

It is so much the journalists.

If you participate in something called a "perception management programme" and voluntarily speak at a press briefing organised by the Zimbabwe tourism department, you're no longer a reporter, you're a willing stooge.

Also - visiting tourist spots miles away from where opposition members are being intimidated and murdered is hardly a way of being "balanced and fair".

ITP and AMG obviously knew the score when they approved the trip, so they deserve a share of the blame.

I'll happily withdraw my scorn if either of the journalists file a ground-breaking story they could only develop by getting involved in such a situation.

As it stands, they're complicit in supporting a regime that Reporters without Borders calls "one of most vicious on the continent in its treatment of journalists."

Anonymous said...

The journalists were invited so had to attend?

That's brilliant!

I hereby invite all journlists to attend a press visit to clean my apartment and wash my car.

Anonymous said...

A moral judgement? From DMO?! Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha, etc...

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read the cutting-edge travel writing, with reportage photo journalism showing The Real Side of Zimbabwe etc.

Anonymous said...

Zimbabwe's Hot 100 can not be far off the horizon. Maybe Greg Wilson can front an Ahlan bash in a Burmese prison camp.

Anonymous said...

Again, journalists have a duty to report on situations such as Zimbabwe. But how to gain reasonable and credible access? Maybe one positive 'PR' bull story is worth one picture that is so defining that it helps support change in the future? Is anyone going to believe these endorsements, no, but will people now sit up should any of these journos prepare a decent expose, probably.

Just because everyone knows something is sick, wrong and evil, doesn't mean you shouldn't go and witness for yourself.

Ends justify means? I hope so...

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know which PR agency organised the trip? Anybody turn down the offer?

Inquiring minds are asking...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad it wasn't just me who tought Bhoyrul's piece on China was one of the most pitiful pieces of journalism ever. It read like a wide-eyed schoolboy's account of what he did on his holiday. "Oh wow, the plane's so cool! Oh wow, the security was so relaxed for VIPS like me! Hey, Sheikh Mo, here's my brilliant idea for the name of the new budget airline!"

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 07.16
I see your point but to think that you are going to expose anything or take a 'defining' photograph on a stage managed 'preception management tour' is not really realistic.
You would also need real journalists present, which on this trip there wasn't.

Anonymous said...

You’re taking quotes from Mugabe’s government puppet papers as fact? Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can imagine the exposes written from the spa at the Four Seasons in Harare.

Anonymous said...

How can you put comments linking Kate Hazell with a ground breaking story. Saying that however, I am looking forward to reading about Mrs Mugabes waxing tips...

Anonymous said...

... or where the Divine Mrs M likes to shop.

Anonymous said...

I believe Ms Hazell left Ahlan quite some time ago and now works for Harper's Bazaar, which may explain a great deal.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes wish a smart person on this blog would make a genuine effort to explain why journalists in Dubai participate without shame in such bold efforts at "perception management" while journalists in other markets don't seem to have the same tendency.

Anonymous said...

"Journalists in other markets don't seem to have the same tendency."

Yes they do.

Anonymous said...

How so?

Anonymous said...

Are you seriously suggesting that participating in "perception management" trips is unique to Dubai journalists?

Anonymous said...

No, that's not what I'm suggesting. Reread my initial post and pay attention to the distinction that I actually made.

I never said that journalists who participate in perception management are unique to Dubai. Every time an American reporter catches a ride on a presidential candidate's plane, they're going on a participation management trip. But those reporters are expected to ask questions and ferret out information. Call me naive, but that's the job.

An ITP publication could probably get accreditation in Zimbabwe to take a real look at business conditions there, if not the politics (because that's simply not in ITP's remit). And it's not that hard to avoid getting up a travel conference to praise the country.

The right way to approach a perception management trip like this one is to write about the perception management trip itself, otherwise they just outsourced government propaganda to you.

There's less concern about the corrupting influence of money on journalism in Dubai than in any other market on earth.

Anonymous said...

"There's less concern about the corrupting influence of money on journalism in Dubai than in any other market on earth."

Hardly, but that's probably a statement that considers the earth to be familiar Western media markets.

But even so, I would suggest the policy of embedding journalists with troops during the Iraq invasion was a significantly more problematic corruption of the media than a junket by a couple of Dubai fashion magazine writers. People aren't exactly going to ITP publications for hard news. There's a clear distinction between what constitutes ad driven, pop culture magazine publishing and actual news media.

Shame on anyone who particpates in Mugabe's relentless rape of Zimbabwe but a little perspective please.

Anonymous said...

It took longer than usual to bring an Iraq reference into a discussion like this, but full marks for getting there in the end.

One of the many differences between embedded journalism in the Iraq War and "perception management" is that the former was the subject of agonised debate within the media. Outside this blog, no-one is commenting on the freebie to Zimbabwe, which says a lot about UAE media.

Equally, it's a mistake to imagine the journalists' actions only impact the readers of Harpers Bazaar and Emirates Business.

The whole point of the stunt was for domestic consumption, so that Mugabe's papers could point to two British citizens and journalists and pretend that it's only the Western elite who are criticising recent suppression.

Anonymous said...

The US media went headlong into the Iraq invasion embedding and there was zero soul searching until about two years later when things started going wrong prompting a retrospective wringing of hands.

Touting the presence of two British journalists in Zimbabwe is hardly achieved by having a couple of Dubai based fashion writers on board whatever their nationality. I'd like to see the domestic coverage on it, if there was any.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You really don’t let the facts stand in your way, do you?

On embedding journalists: I can find an article from the Los Angeles Times online that questions the practice dated April 2, 2003. Did you mean it was two weeks before the “soul searching” began?

On domestic coverage: the original post has quotes and links for the Zimbabwe Chronicle. Roughly the same story is in The Herald and The Sunday Mail, and there’s a government newswire report about the trip. I’d point you to some non-government media coverage, but those papers have been closed down, and their editors arrested or exiled.

Finally, it’s eight journalists, rather than two fashion writers, working for a range of media, including newspapers – I assume Adam Wilson is talking about Emirates Business 24/7 in his quote. The fact that the two named in the government release (and subsequent coverage) are British does seem to suggest a specific agenda, particularly when the government release talks about “an opportunity to counter constant negative publicity from hostile Western media.”

It’s easier to have perspective when at least one of your facts is correct.

Anonymous said...

Dubai journalists as tools of the Mugabe regime to realign iternational and domestic opinion. You might as well dig a well with a stick.

Anonymous said...

You may see a distinction between ITP and hard news media, but that distinction is either lost on or not important to the editors of Mugabe's rags.

If I got offered one of these junkets to Zimbabwe, I'd probably take it. Hell, Zimbabwe? But I wouldn't allow myself to be quoted at the beginning of that trip as I was doing all the glad-handing and ceremonial bullshit that selling yourself in that way entails.

Either these journos don't know, don't care, or fell asleep at the wheel.

I'm damn sure that soul-searching over embedding was going on before the invasion started. I doubt that much soul-searching was going on before this trip.









The UAE is, for all intents and purposes, a Western media market. If you ask anyone in charge, they're going to say that Dubai belongs with the US and the UK in this regard, not China. I've worked there too, and in North America and Southern Europe. Dubai attracts some decent writers and some beautiful people, I suppose. But it doesn't attract many journalists. quality is still pretty low but there's an incentive to get publications up and running and generating ad revenue. Working in media in Dubai is sort of like teaching English in South Korea.

Otherwise, there are plenty of people working in Dubai who know better.

Anonymous said...

I would have gone to Zimbabwe on that press trip if I’d been invited.
The fact that they are inviting people over on such a PR stunt at a time when so many other things are happening in the country is a good story in itself.
A first-person account on how the PRs and organisers tried to put a positive spin on the place, would be a decent one.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean munificence not magnificence.

Anonymous said...

If you Google Kate Hazell, you get this:

"After showing us around his personal quarters, Idi Amin provided us with a sumptuous meal. My personal favorite was the braised Liver of My Enemy, although the Eyeballs of the Man Who Looked at Me Funny was also worthy of mention..."

Anonymous said...

talk about deluded Ahlan journos!

Anonymous said...

Hang on - at least in Zimbabwe there's some kind of election. Most of you lot live and work in a country that needs another couple of centuries to even have bent elections.

Get a grip.