Denial, distortion dominate state media


HARARE – Using its now time-honoured tactics of denial or distortion – or both, the state media glossed over a recommendation by a parliamentary committee that Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) should be restructured and other broadcasters allowed

to operate.

“Instead of raising fundamental questions about why it is taking so long to licence new broadcasters, the government-controlled media merely focussed on the poor pay of its journalists,” the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) noted in its report covering May 29-June 4.

“Further they did not question the impression that reverting to the old ZBC structures would solve the problems at the broadcaster, which apart from lack of profitability and poor programming, suffers from grossly biased editorial manipulation and interference from the authorities,” the watchdog added.

Thus, the state media continued to maintain that the European Union imposes sanctions, despite chapter and verse evidence from diplomats that it does not; and it continued to pretend that the regime’s latest economic revival programme, with its mouthful of initials and not much else, was some kind of an answer to the economic crisis.

For example, the introduction of the $100 000 bearer cheque – evidence, if more were needed, or hyperinflation and an economy in meltdown. The state media let pass without question the official reasoning that the note is meant “to ensure convenience to the public.”

The small private media, MMPZ said, did critically examine the economic crisis and all its manifestations – from the survival prospects of a new fuel deal with a French bank, through the currency and the continued investor-scaring threats to seize without compensation large parts of foreign owned mining operations.

The Zimbabwe Independent said the new note had given “away the lie by the authorities” and had “awakened Zimbabweans to the realities of a deep-seated economic disaster caused by increased money supply growth.”

The paper then traced the disastrous money-printing to state borrowing for grain and fuel imports, and simply printing to pay US dollars to offset the International Monetary Fund debt.

The state media did its best to ignore the proposed law on mines. The Standard, in contrast, reported that RioZim Ltd. had frozen a US$120 million investment. The paper quoted company chairman Eric Kahari this would result in a diamond project wining down production in 2009, and that conditions were not conducive to investment.

Censorship was also the state media’s way of dealing with international efforts to find a solution to the political and economic crisis, said MMPZ. The state-run Herald carried just one report on the proposed visit by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and this muddled the essence of the visit, quoting an official as saying the visit was in connection with the urban clearances and “might no longer be relevant.”

The private media failed to established fully the authorities’ position on an Annan visit, said MMPZ. However, the Daily Mirror and Financial Gazette both reported that Annan was determined to come despite the regime’s discomfort.

The Independent said the UN had recalled its Harare envoy for consultations because of the standoff. It also reported on growing official disquiet in South Africa, quoting Vice President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as saying the Zimbabwe crisis “had to be solved urgently.”

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