State media’s Mission Impossible – making Operation Sunrise look good

HARARE - The state-run media tackled its latest mission impossible - portraying the chopping of three zeroes off the currency as some kind of recipe for economic revival - with a mixture of the ludicrous and censorship.
The degrading body searches at roadblocks for curr

ency were naturally not regarded by the regime’s media as being an abuse of human rights and probably unconstitutional, but as all part of a successful cleanup of unidentified economic saboteurs.
Coverage by the private media, including the private electronic media, was in stark contrast – with the usual exception of the Mirror group whose reporting of the economic chaos resembled that of the state-run media.
The private media “continued to question the usefulness of the government’s ad hoc economic measures which they projected as doomed unless the authorities resolved fundamental economic influences that had caused the economy to slide in the first place,” the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) said in its report covering August 7 – 13.
The Financial Gazette reported a planned challenge by civic organisations to the legality of the emergency powers used to search – in at least one case to strip search – people.
Studio 7 and the Zimbabwe Independent reported confusion and alarm over the phasing out of the old currency, particularly in rural areas where people cannot easily get to banks to change their money. Both also reported that state security agents had been placed on high alert for feat of riots as the deadline for exchanging the old currency approached.
“The government media censored these matters,” noted MMPZ.
The private media also did not, like the state mouthpieces, view a marginal fall in inflation as a cause for celebration. Zimdaily accused Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono of trying to persuade the nation that Zimbabwe’s world-record inflation would drop to double digits by 2008 without mentioning that all the factors behind hyperinflation remain. This included, Zimdaily noted, the massive supplementary budget to be financed largely by printing more money, leading to even higher inflation.
The state media seized on the inflation drop and the money changeover, the so-called Operation Sunrise, with some pretty ridiculous stories, and carried no informed analysis. ZTV, Spot FM and Radio Zimbabwe in excitable stories, reported members of the public and analysts sensing “a sign of better things to come”. ZTV and Radio Zimbabwe in Shona bulletins on August 10 also wrong translated the term inflation to mean firming of the Zimbabwe dollar.
ZBH epitomized the lopsided coverage that left its audiences aware of the things not even the state media can hide, such as shortages and the surging cost of living, and unaware of the causes or of the fact that zero-chopping on its own is the economic equivalent of a highway to nowhere.
For example, while the broadcaster projected members of the public as being delighted with Operation Sunrise and the searches, the people actually quoted gave the opposite view.

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