State media censors Gono’s money confession

BY A CORRESPONDENT


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HARARE Celebratory coverage – with nothing to celebrate – by the state-run media of Zimbabwe’s debt repayment to avert expulsion from the International Monetary Fund contained all the usual distortions.


But there was also something truly telling: nearly all the state mouthpieces censored the disclosure by Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono that the authorities had printed Zimbabwe $21 trillion to buy the foreign currency to pay off the debt to the IMF’s General Resource Account.


If ever there was an official admission of economic malpractice that can only accelerate hyper-inflation and the general economic chaos, Gono’s statement was it. And it was apparently a step too far for the propagandists.


Otherwise, the report by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) covering Feb. 13-19 showed it was a business as usual for the state media – which a recent poll showed most Zimbabweans have long ceased to believe. And well they might. For example, ZTV quoted unidentified “analysts” as saying the repayment would make Zimbabwe “eligible for technical assistance and other initiatives.”


The Herald made an equally ludicrous claim that the repayment showed Zimbabwe “is willing and has the capacity to honour its obligations whatever the obstacles placed in its path.”


“All 28 stories that the government media carried on the repayment of the GRA arrears myopically projected the development as the sole remedy to the country’s ailing economy by glossing over the real causes of the decline while inflating the economic benefits,” the MMPZ noted.


The Herald and The Sunday Mail even accused the IMF of selectively applying its own rules, unconsciously lining up Zimbabwe with three of the world’s worst basket cases. They complained that Liberia, Somalia and Sudan were in even greater debt to the IMF but had not faced expulsion.


“However, in this unfortunate comparison with three of the world’s most outstandingly failed states, the papers still did not clarify whether these three countries’ arrears were owed in the critical GRA, the only IMF account that carries the threat of compulsory withdrawal of defaulters,” said the MMPZ.


Motivating the general distorted coverage was the state media’s favourite theme: all that has gone and is going so very wrong is the fault of anyone and everyone but the Mugabe regime. The Herald and The Sunday Mail neatly illustrated this by blaming Zimbabwe’s frosty relations with the IMF on international “detractors,” particularly businessman Mutumwa Mawere, Britain and the United States.


Similarly, The Herald attributed the rise in the January inflation rate to 613% to “illegal, Western-imposed sanctions among other factors.”


The private media, apart from The Sunday Mirror, took a different view of the IMF repayment, MMPZ said. Studio 7 and the Zimbabwe Independent noted that the repayment would not automatically open doors to new financial help because the country first needed to address other fundamental economic issues.” The Financial Gazette said that inflation was even “set to rise towards four digits over the next quarter and that a new surge in black market, forex and fuel trade would lead to a sharper rise in prices.”


Another notable feature of the week was the official media ignoring or inadequately covering the latest human rights violations, including the detention of some 400 women and several infants for taking part in demonstrations organised by Women of Zimbabwe Arise.


“Only the private media gave the arrests and detentions adequate prominence and interpreted them as rights violations,” said MMPZ

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