Key stories ignored – but abuse of Red Cross revealed

HARARE - Mainstream media, both state-controlled and private, ignored or gave dreadful coverage to some important stories in the week August 28 - Sept. 3, the media monitors reported.
For example, none of the media, apart from SW Radio Africa and ZWNews, covered the

acquittal of 63 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) who were arrested in February during the “Bread and Roses” demonstration.
Similarly, the Victoria Falls rail crash was poorly covered by all sections of the media—passively reporting ministerial inspections of the accident scene without examining the terrible human cost, or relating the crash to other disasters on the same line, and to the deteriorating standards of the state-run railways.
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) in its report on the week harshly criticised the private media for ignoring the WOZA acquittal and the magistrate’s criticisms of the police for providing no evidence of wrong-doing and going on a fishing expedition arresting any women near the protest.
“Whereas it has become the norm for the government media to censor cases that reflect badly on government, it is inexplicable for the mainstream private media to ignore such matters, which expose the police’s increasing abuse of power to curtail citizens’ rights on the pretext of enforcing the country’s repressive media and security laws,” said MMPZ.
Having said that, the private media had some good, investigative stories. New and SW Radio Africa reported serious abuse of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society. ZANU PF muscled its officials into key positions in order to control the orgnaisation’s food distribution.
Equally serious, New revealed the society’s president, Edmore Shamu of ZANU-PF, is abusing his office by giving Red Cross vehicles and motor bikes to ruling party activists to campaign in rural council elections in Mashonaland Central.
And the private media bought none of the state mouthpieces’ absurd coverage of the Harare Agricultural Show “to overstate alleged improvements in the country’s agricultural fortunes,” said the monitors.
The private media generally highlighted farm ownership chaos, poor preparations for the coming season, acute shortages of essential inputs and the official policies that have led to food insecurity.
The Zimbabwe Independent cited experts estimating that production has fallen by 70% since the seizures of white-owned farms started in 2000. It quoted former army commander Vitalis Zvinavashe as questioning the worth of independence when, 26 years on, people are hungry. He challenged the authorities to “open archives and see how they (colonial government) used to do it.”
The regime showed it meant business about retaining its clampdown on press freedom with laws that have attracted international criticism. The tenure of the notorious chairman of the Media and Information Commission (MIC) was extended indefinitely, the Financial Gazette reported.
“Besides demonstrating government’s determination to maintain its stranglehold on the media. The development clearly shows that the composition of MIC is not based on the genuine desire to regulate the media but on personalities that slavishly enforce the country’s tyrannical media laws,” said MMPZ.
Some jamming of independent radio stations continued. In the week reviewed the monitors had difficulty hearing Studio 7’s Short Wave frequency because a droning sound – similar to that used to jam the stations Medium Wave broadcasts in June – drowned out some bulletins.

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