State media says rain will blow wind into economy

BY A CORRESPONDENT HARARE - The rain fell and the state media's false dawns, predictions of farming recovery and all being well in 2006 scaled new heights of absurdity. These reports ran right alongside - but made no connection with - stories about the general chaos in the agricultural sector, i

ncluding shortage of fertiliser and other inputs and under-use of land seized from white owners.

The media watchdog, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), noted in its report covering Jan. 2-8, that there were no confusing signals, however, in the private media.

“Almost all their 32 stories – forecast a gloomy 2006 on the strength of independent commentators’ observations that the country’s economic slide would continue despite the rains as government’s skewed economic policies remained intact,” the MMPZ said.

The Financial Gazette, for example, reported the business community took a gloomy view of the prospects for 2006 and predicted inflation topping 600 percent and the plummeting Zimbabwe dollar hitting 100,000 to the US dollar. (Economists predict an unofficial rate of nearly Zimbabwe $250,000 to the US dollar by mid-year).

The Gazette also quoted Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Luxon Zembe as dismissing the rosy predictions. The Zimbabwe Indepdent, The Standard and the Sunday Mirror all concurred.

The Herald, The Chronicle and the rest of the regime’s propagandists, however, pressed on regardless. ZTV, for example, claimed that “most people” were confident “the country will go forward,” and the economy will “grow and stabilise.” However, the MMPZ said that none of nine people quoted as the basis for this report, actually said that. “Instead, they simply highlighted economic problems besetting the country and implored government to draw up effective measures to address the crisis in 2006.”

A ground-breaking report by the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights condemning Zimbabwe’s human rights record received a wide berth from the state media. ZBH completed ignored the report. The state press made a cursory reference to it in the context of the Mugabe regime feigning ignorance of the resolutions.

And even after the regime put together one of its signature, blustering responses, the state press buried this at the end of an unsubstantiated report that UN Secretary-Genral Kofi Annan is due to visit soon.

MMPZ said that both the state and private media dismally failed to report on the major cholera outbreak, which has reportedly so far killed at least 14 people in Manicaland, Harare and Mashonaland East. “All stories on the matter were hazy and failed to independently establish the exact circumstances leading to the outbreak, when the first cases were detected, or when the first death occurred,” the monitors added.

ZBH was the worst, covering the story with a series of events reports of Health Minister David Parirenyatwa’s tour of affected areas. Although Parirenyatwa expressed serious concerns and said the spread of the disease indicated a “frightening pattern,” The Herald and The Chronicle presented the state as being in control of the situation.

The Chronicle gave a depressing insight into its priorities – placing the cholera story on page 3, preferring to lead with a fund-raising show for the national soccer team and a railways manager arrested on charges of smuggling maize seed and cement.

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