State media loved Mugabe’s chair

By a Correspondent
HARARE- Should ZBH want to prove- as if proof were needed- that it is nothing more than an instrument of the regime's propaganda, its coverage of Robert Mugabe opening Parliament will do nicely.
The broadcaster drowned its audiences in nearly two hours of the July 25 proceed

ings with fawning references to Mugabe, prominent coverage of petty issues such as taking photographs of the Mugabe family and, above all, his new throne-like marble and ivory chair. ZTV was particularly thrilled with the chair, saying it represented “solidarity, imperishability (sic), permanence, indestructibility.”
The lion skin on which the chair stood symbolised “power and authority,” the draping leopard skin epitomised “royalty” while the flanking huge elephant tusks were “for protection from the greatest of forces.”
Mugabe will need all the protection he can get if the state of the economy is anything to go by. But of course, although Mugabe got close by his standards to acknowledging all is not exactly perfect- blaming others as usual- the state media did not even skim the surface of the massive problems. And the cost of the chair naturally went unquestioned.
“None of the broadcaster’s news reports on the matter carried any clear and balanced analysis of the occasion or the economic problems referred to in Mugabe’s speech,” the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) said in its report covering July 24-30. “Instead its reports idolized him as a compassionate leader ” concerned about the welfare of Zimbabweans (Spot FM).”
The monitors compiled this report before the Reserve Bank started knocking noughts off the near-worthless currency and got cracking on printing some more. But MMPZ noted that the state media’s sanitised coverage of Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa’s fiscal policy review and massive supplementary budget.
“Their stories on the subject did not test the wisdom of these plans against reality,” said MMPZ. “…. These media ignored the economic circumstances that had obliged the authorities to present a record-breaking supplementary budget in the first place and failed to question the government’s extravagant operating costs, which were three times that forecast in Murewa’s original budget.”
The Herald had a sort of go at making bricks out of straw, arguing that “at first glance” some might think domestic debt had ballooned out of control – but adjust for hyper-inflation and really it has hardly risen at all.
In contrast, the private media critically assessed the budget- with the usual exception of the Mirror group which follows the regime line.
“They argued that rather than give hope, the fiscal policy actually spelt further doom for the economy,” said the monitors.
The Zimbabwe Independent noted this was the first time in the country’s history that a supplementary budget has exceeded the original. Studio 7, The Standard and other private media generally gave space to critical comments which had been smothered by the state mouthpieces. quoted Tsholotsho MP Jonathan Moyo as saying the supplementary budget proved the “the government has totally lost control.”
The Financial Gazette noted that Mugabe continued in denial mode, blaming Britain and “reactionary elements.” The Independent said bluntly that productivity can only be improved through “a comprehensive political settlement, improvement of relations between Zimbabwe and the international community and political will to solve the country’s economic problems.”

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