State media celebrates Independence – but nobody else does

HARARE - The state-run media diverted its attention, but presumably not the attention of the stressed and suffering population, to covering the 26th anniversary of independence with fawning propaganda. However, the private media - except, as usual, the Mirror group - took a

robust line. The Financial Gazette, for example, pulled no punches, saying the struggle for economic survival in the country is “too real, brutal, unrelenting to be masked by any amount of propaganda” on the virtues of independence. The media watchdog, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), noted in its report covering April 17-23, that Studio 7 said the independence celebration was actually “a painful reminder of what life used to be like in the aftermath of the national liberation.” The private radio station also placed an advertisement in the Zimbabwe Independent with 19 people citing the fruits of independence for them as hunger, shortages, high living costs and oppression. Compare that with ZTV reporting “jubilation in all provinces” as people came to hear Robert Mugabe’s speech read out by the local governor; or thousands thronging the National Sports Stadium “ululating and cheering as President Mugabe, the first lady and the first family entered.” Not to be outdone, the state-run Herald said Zimbabwe was “evidently a success story in Africa” despite “sustained attacks on all fronts by Westerners and their lackeys opposed to the land reform programme.” In what MMPZ called a childish attempt to misinform readers, the paper even claimed that the country’s near 1 000% inflation rate, as reported by the Central Statistical Office, was wrong. “No attempt was made to reconcile the purported achievements of independence with the country’s sorry state of the economy, characterised by untold widespread suffering of the majority,” noted the media monitors. The state media, naturally, could not question the regime’s so-called National Economic development Priority Programme (NEDPP), which is supposed to perform the reality-defying feat of turning an economy which has contracted by over one-third since the seizures of white-owned farms into registering growth in 6-9 months. Nor, of course, did any of the state mouthpieces ask what happened to at least five other programmes with similar strings of initials, such as ZIMPREST or NERP. Mindlessly, the state-run media also carried inflammatory threats by Mugabe to against anyone who dared demonstrate. “These media allowed such crude threats to pass as normal without interpreting them as autocratic and typical of a police state afraid of dissent,” said MMPZ, adding this made the state media “accomplices in the repression of the Zimbabwean population.”

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