Mtetwa target of state papers’ hate campaign

BY A CORRESPONDENT HARARE - A vindictive personal attack by Information Secretary George Charamba on human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa underlined the extent to which the state-controlled media, particularly the press, propagate hatred against perceived opponents of the Mugabe regime. The me

dia watchdog, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), in its report covering Jan. 9-16, also noted that just a week after making ridiculous claims that the good rains spelled economic revival, all the media “reflected an economy in turmoil.”

Charamba’s prominent column in The Sunday Mail was prompted by an interview Mtetwa gave to South Africa’s Mail and Guardian, and which the Zimbabwe Independent picked up, attacking Zimbabwe’s repressive media laws. Instead of addressing Mtetwa’s points, Charamba tried to undermine her legal credentials, sneering that she sought to make a name for herself in journalism.

“Such unprofessional outbursts severely undermine ethical journalistic standards and practice, to which the government-appointed Media and Information Commission has seemingly remained blind,” said the MMPZ.

While giving Charamba a big show, the state media ignored an urgent High Court application by Chitungwiza mayour Misheck Shoko challenging his suspension from office. The Daily Mirror also skipped this important story, but it was reported by SW Radio Africa, which made an error in its report, Studio 7 and the Financial Gazette.

On the economic crisis, MMPZ said that, apart from Radio Zimbabwe, the state broadcaster reported prominently the huge surge in inflation from 502.4% in November to 585.8% in December. Spot FM even quoted an economist as saying inflation will worsen. But, as ever, the state media avoided linking the country’s economic misery to mismanagement by the regime.

In Bulawayo, The Chronicle excelled itself by peddling the absurdity that that hyperinflation and the general economic decay were a “consequence of the sabotage unleashed on our economy via Tony Blair’s machinations, with support of most European Union countries.”

The Herald seized on rhetoric from the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) – combining state, business and labour – as the latest panacea. However, the monitors noted that in a rare moment of candour, The Herald reported analysts as saying a new currency “would also develop a chain of zeroes” as long as inflation remained high and productivity low.

The independent SW Radio Africa did not report the inflation rise, and The Daily Mirror’s coverage was along the lines of the state media. Adopting a more analytical approach, Studio 7, the Independent and The Standard cited analysts as predicting inflation could hit 800-1,000% by year’s end.

As in the previous week, none of the media covered the cholera outbreak adequately, failing to make independent investigations and relying on official sources for information.

“Almost all the updates on the spread of the disease in official papers were buried in reports that narrowly fingered vendors, particularly those in Mbare, as the source of the pestilence, while simultaneously stressing how the authorities had taken effective action to contain the disease,” said the MMPZ.

Officials were quoted as saying Operation Murambatsvinva, which rendered hundreds of thousands homeless and without livelihoods, had enabled the disease to be contained. The state press also passively quoted Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo as saying he would organise collection of refuse, fixing of potholes and repairing of street lights in Harare – with no reference to the fact that the state-appointed Commission which is supposed to run Harare had failed to do this.

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