State media buries bad news and asks no questions

BY A CORRESPONDENT

HARARE – Everything is getting worse, from record high inflation to record low tobacco production, but as far as the state-run media is concerned, no one knows why or would even think to ask.
Recent gems include The Herald, the main daily of the Mugabe regime,


burying deep on an inside page the news that Zimbabwe has set another world record (the other being the lowest life expectancy) with inflation up from 782% in February to 913.6% in March. ZTV relegated this appalling statistic, which erodes what quality of life is left for ordinary Zimbabweans, to item 15 out of 17 items on its newsreel.
“Even then, both media carried the matter as a mere announcement without interpreting it as a reflection of government’s failure to turn around the country’s economic fortunes,” the media watchdog, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), said in its report covering April 3-9.
This technique of reporting piecemeal the now-avalanche of bad news, without the slightest hint that it is due to corruption and economic mismanagement by those who cling to power, was also used extensively in reporting of the chaos in agriculture. The agricultural coverage was larded with hailing announcements, such a higher maize price and empty exhortations by officials, as some kind of panacea.
“The national broadcaster’s determination to subordinate the farming community’s concerns to government plans was demonstrated by the way ZTV (April 6) failed to link Vice President Joyce Mujuru’s demands for farmers to revise upwards their winter wheat target of 400 000 tonnes to the inputs shortages riddling the sector,” noted MMPZ.
Again, none of the state media asked Security and Land Minister Didymus Mutasa why at least 220 A2 farms in Manicaland are still lying idle if the seizure of white-owned properties has been such a success. Instead, coverage of meaningless statements by Mujuru while touring various so-called “development projects” amounted to an itinerary being presented as news.
The Herald even reported Tobacco Auction Floors representative Wilson Nyabonde as telling a parliamentary committee that if tobacco production continued to plummet (50 million kg from more than 200 million kg before the land seizures) it could lead to the closure of the auction floors. But the newspaper studiously avoided linking this – or anything else – to the regime’s failed policies.
However, MMPZ noted that the private media – apart from the Mirror stable, which now apes the state mouthpieces – categorically blamed the decline in agricultural output on failed official policies.
The Financial Gazette said bluntly that the crisis was due to “lack of forward planning, upside-down priorities and certain government policies that have no basis in realities whatsoever.” The weekly added that the food shortages have more to do with “poor preparations than with intermittent droughts,” and added that the projected low yields in “one of the best seasons in terms of rainfall, confirms this.”
Zimbabwe Independent columnist Eric Bloch argued that land reform could have been a great success if the regime had adopted a non-confrontational approach, and co-operated with white farmers and the international community instead of behaving “domineeringly, arrogantly and despotically.”
Another state press special was supinely reporting Information Minister Tichaona Jokonya as claiming that Zimbabwe has a better human rights record than the United States. “Unlike the US,” said Jokonya, Zimbabwe has “no ambitions of invading other countries.”
Given the economic situation, perhaps that is just as well.

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