Studio 7 jammed in new assault on independent media

Studio 7 jammed in new assault on independent media

By a Correspondent

HARARE – Media monitors in the week June 12-18 were able to hear just one broadcast by the independent Studio 7. The rest were “suffocated by a steady droning sound similar to that

used to jam SW Radio Africa and Radio Voice of the People frequencies last year,” the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) said.

Thus the Robert Mugabe regime stepped up its tactics of seeking to muzzle and intimidate independent media and restrict Zimbabweans to a stream of propaganda and distortions put out by the state-run media.

MMPZ said that while the authorities denied jamming Studio 7, independent broadcasting experts said the jamming signal came from Thornhill air base near Gweru using equipment of Chinese origin.

Condemning what it termed this “totalitarian tyranny of thought,” the media monitors said the latest jamming, combined with the proposed snoopers’ charter allowing interference with private mail and internet communications, represented the “final steps in the total control of all information received by Zimbabweans”.

On top of all that, the authorities announced plans to reappoint the notorious chairman of the state’s Media and Information Commission, Tafataona Mahoso, under whom five newspapers have been closed and no independent privately owned broadcasting stations have been allowed to operate. “He has government support,” said Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga.

Nothing new in that. Nor was there anything fresh about the state media’s attempt to divert attention from the dire state of the economy by hyping alleged business deals, mostly with China, with no attempt to assess the value or differentiate between any actual signings and rhetoric. Thus a visit to China by Vice President Joyce Mujuru was covered with regurgitations of empty official pronouncements. These included Zimbabwe being poised for increased foreign investment “as the Look East policy begins to show results.”

First prize for the most meaningless pronouncement of the week must go to the state-run Herald. It quoted Mujuru as saying: “Within the next 60 days something must be done. We should be at it.” Another good one by The Herald was depicting a Mugabe visit to Beitbridge as part of the latest economic revival plan.

But the private press, MMPZ said, remained unimpressed both with the China visit and the management of the economy.

The Financial Gazette described the Mujuru visit as “ill-fated” and yielding a “pathetic US$6 million.” The Zimbabwe Independent said that a state plan to set up with Chinese help a coal-powered electricity generation plant in the Zambezi Valley would go the way of at least 10 other stalled schemes, including the Batoka Gorge hydro-electricity plant and the Sengwa thermal plant. The Sunday Mirror poured more cold water on the state media hype, saying Zimbabwean exports to China had declined drastically from over US$1 billion in 2003 to US$1.8 million in 2005.

On the land chaos, the state media recorded three incidents of farm evictions perpetrated by Zanu (PF) leaders against white commercial farmers or newly resettled black ones but, said MMPZ, “failed to view them as a reflection of the chaos bedevilling agriculture.”

The private papers, however, continued to blame the agricultural chaos squarely on the regime’s policies.

“For example, The Financial Gazette castigated government for failing to put an end to corruption, multiple-farm ownership and illegal seizures of farms and equipment by senior government officials,” said MMPZ.

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