Urgent media reforms needed – Chinamasa


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HARARE – Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, launched this week into what appeared to be a veiled attack on the privately-owned media. He pressed for ‘urgent reforms’ in media coverage to ‘assist in beaming out to the outside world our (Zimbabwe’s) aspirations, our stories and our world view’.

The comment has been viewed by many as ‘contradictory’ due to the mass coverage set aside for Mugabe’s 82nd birthday, an event that appeared to be a campaign to improve presidential popularity.

No less than 16 stories and two 16-page supplements were published by government newspapers during the birthday celebrations and regular programming on ZBH television was suspended to make room for 100-minute interview with the President.

The saturation seeped from newspapers and television to the airwaves of radio where the 90-minute speech was also aired and, according to Zimbabwe’s media monitoring project team, ‘praised Mugabe’s liberation war credentials and leadership qualities’

The coverage has been described by the independent media to be a governmental attempt to get ‘even more control and less diversity’. They claimed that the Mugabe Government ‘is determined to suffocate all independent thought and replace it with its own narrow, Zanu (PF) definitions’.

This is supported by the retort from Simon Khaya Moyo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador for South Africa, who spoke out against SA’s Business Day newspaper for reporting that Mugabe had verbally attacked President Mbeki. Moyo criticised the author of the article stating: “he and his like minded (sic) are too small to drive a wedge between Mugabe and Mbeki because Zimbabwe is not for sale”.

The interpretation by the MMPZ is that the media is failing to act in its professional capacity that should see a balanced account of events communicated to the public.

The Watchdog role of the media is also being hindered by governmental controls and pressures. The state media in its entirety failed to question the cost of the lavish birthday celebrations – a point of public interest to Zimbabweans suffering under the current economic crisis. They also failed to report the arrests of demonstrators challenging the extravagant affair.

The ‘Zimbabwe Independent’ described the celebrations as ‘the clearest sign of his (Mugabe’s) detachment from events on the ground’

Former student leader, Arthur Mutambara, was also the victim of unbalanced media attention. ‘Spot Fm’ used the story to endorse the government’s view using Zanu (PF) official, William Nhara as its only source. He said: “MDC should not be taken seriously as it does not have a solid agenda and a programme for the people of Zimbabwe”, while ZBH’S coverage was described by the Monitoring commission as ‘condescending’.

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