State media censors Gono

HARARE - While the MIC continues to restrict the private media, it has remained deafeningly silent on the government Press' ongoing disdain for basic journalistic standards. For example, in an effort to discredit, as 'a product of the West', a report by the African Commission on Human and People Rig

hts (ACHPR) condemning human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, Herald columnist Charles Mutete falsely depicted the head of the commission’s 2002 fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe, Jainaba Johm, as a “white man”. The fact: Johm is a black Gambian woman.

This week the media focussed on the fourth quarterly monetary policy review by central bank governor Gideon Gono. The Press devoted 49 stories to the presentation, of which 23 appeared in the official papers and 26 in the private Press. ZBH aired 28 reports (ZTV six; Radio Zimbabwe eight; Spot FM 14), while Studio 7 featured five reports and SW Radio Africa two.

Although the official media generally quoted some economists critically examining the statement, most of their stories either simplistically celebrated or amplified Gono’s speech. However – ZBH, especially ZTV – gave subdued coverage to the governor’s statement as compared to the typical celebratory and high profile status it has previously accorded such presentations.

Neither did they wonder whether the new $50 000 bearer cheque would adequately match the scourge of galloping inflation, which Gono himself predicted would leap from the current 586 percent to around 800 percent by next March.

Instead, The Herald (25/1) simply hailed the new paper money, saying it “will help cut down on the bulky piles of cash everyone needs just to buy a few groceries” and increase the maximum amount of money individuals could withdraw from ATMs per transaction.

The paper also censored Gono’s inflation forecasts and barely covered his condemnation of ongoing farm invasions. It merely reported that the governor had “admitted that it had lost the battle (to reduce inflation) in the year 2005 but not the war”.

The official media’s censorship of some of Gono’s candidly uncomplimentary observations remained unbroken. For example, they did not report Gono’s revelations that Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga had raised fears that the continued food shortages could trigger riots and urged the central bank to address the situation. This only appeared on SW Radio (26/1), Studio 7 and in the Zimbabwe Independent (27/1).

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