stion. The Standard said that Mutasa told its reporter Walter Marwizi that he would deal with him ruthlessly unless he revealed his sources. Marwizi had asked Mutasa to comment on allegations that Manicaland politicians were unhappy about the dismissal by another minister of Mutare city commissioners. “You know I am the minister in charge of security,” Mutasa told the reporter, adding, “I won’t come in person, I am sending my operatives and they will do a clean job.” Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) noted in its report covering May 22-28, that this was not the first time that Mutasa had made serious threats against journalists. Revelations by South African President Thabo Mbeki that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would visit Zimbabwe this year to seek a solution to the growing political and economic crisis got the usual treatment from the state-run media: ignore it or distort it. In contrast, the private media – apart from the Mirror stable – carried informative reports and revealed that the regime had actually cancelled the Annan trip to maintain its stranglehold on power, MMPZ said. For example, the Zimbabwe Independent said Robert Mugabe had blocked a July trip by Annan “because he feared the international community would use it to stampede him out of office.” The Financial Gazette reported more fully on Mbeki’s hopes that an Annan visit could resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, albeit its story ran under a misleading headline: “I failed in Zim: Mbeki.” Nowhere was Mbeki quoted as acknowledging that. Then there was the coverage by the state mouthpieces. ZBH completely censored the matter in its main bulletins. But of course for the state propagandists there is no crisis. The Herald and The Chronicle diverted attention from the Mbeki announcement by projecting an Annan visit as unjustified and quoting Information Secretary George Charamba as professing ignorance of any visit, saying there was only a “stale invitation” over Operation Murambatsvina which had “fallen away.” The media watchdog noted that the papers cobbled together conspiracies aimed at tarnishing the image of the UN as a neutral broker, and that Britain was the brains behind the visit.
This same determination to suffocate or distort growing international concerns about the Zimbabwe crisis was also reflected in their coverage of Swedish Ambassador Sten Rylander’s comments on Zimbabwe.
The Herald did publish a letter from the Swedish envoy complaining that the paper and the Manica Post had deliberately distorted his comments and reiterating that he supported the European Union’s targeted sanctions against the leaders of the regime. The paper, nevertheless, continued to maintain that Rylander was against the EU position on Zimbabwe.
By a Correspondent
HARARE - Official bullying and intimidation of the battling independent media and general disregard for the rule of law took an ominous turn with Lands and Security Minister Didymus Mutasa personally threatening to unleash CIO operatives on a reporter who asked a probing que