ZBH compounds distorted news with technical blunders


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HARARE – While the state-run media, as ever, went to great lengths to lie about or gloss over the breakdown of services in the main cities and the problems rocking the agricultural sector, ZBH, the regime’s broadcasting mouthpiece, went one better. It compounded its grossly unprofessional news performance with technical blunders, including poor sound quality, misattribution and footage mix-ups.

The independent watchdog, the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), cited in its report for the week Feb. 6-12 as the most irritating example a report by ZTV at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8. For starters, the sense of news values was particularly dire – five consecutive dreary stories on gender equality.

And then the material was rendered incoherent by video mix-ups and distortions of its eight female sources. Poor news reading skills of some of the staff added to the general dismal standard – for example, staffer Gilbert Nyambabvu talking about the information sector, instead of the informal sector.

Worse, were the broadcaster’s distortions, which showed scant regard for human life or suffering in Zimbabwe.

MMPZ said that on Feb. 9, ZTV led its bulletin with “an otherwise nondescript ‘courtesy call’ on acting President Joyce Mujuru by incoming Pakistan ambassador Rifat Iqbal while burying five more cholera deaths in the country deep into the bulletin.”

During the week, ZBH totally distorted the chaos in the agricultural sector and the predicted poor harvests despite good rains. One technique was to find one allegedly successful ‘new farmer’ and then make out this was typical of an entire district. For example, there was Mwenezi farmer Clara Shumba who showed, according to ZTV, how the area “previously dominated by white commercial farmers” was now a “hub of enterprising new farmers.”

“How this was so remained unproven,” noted MMPZ. Listeners who heard Spot FM doing its best for the regime must also have been left wondering. “The women in Mwenezi are grateful to the government as they are growing groundnuts, round-nuts as well as harvesting edible worms from Mupani trees,” said the station.

Private radio stations Studio 7 and SW Radio Africa told a very different story about agricultural prospects.

“For example,” said MMPZ, “Studio 7 (Feb. 7) reported economists forecasting a further collapse in the production of tobacco, saying that this year the country was unlikely to sell ‘more than 50 million kilograms’ of the crop, a figure they said translated to an 80 percent plunge from the record 270 million kilograms sold in 2000 before ‘land seizures devastated farming’.”

Similarly, only the private weekly newspapers blamed the Mugabe regime for the problems besetting local authorities. The Financial Gazette squarely blamed interference by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo for the in-fighting between Harare Town Clerk Nomutsa Chideya and the so-called “strategist” appointed by the regime, Chester Mhende.

The Zimbabwe Independent agreed, saying Mhende’s appointment was meant to consolidate Zanu-PF’s power in the administration of Harare – a solidly pro-opposition city.

For good measure, the state-run Herald grossly distorted a High Court ruling ordering the regime’s Media and Information Commission to reconsider an application by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of banned Daily News, for an operating licence.

“The official daily muddled the full import of Justice Rita Makarau’s invalidation of the MIC decision not to accredit the ANZ by attempting to lessen the level of perceived bias of the commission’s chairman, Tafataona Mahoso against the publishing house contained in a 2004 Supreme Court judgment,” said the MMPZ.

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