State Media Turns on the Monitors

By a Correspondent
HARARE - The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), along with two other independent media-related organisations, was itself the target of a disgraceful attack by the state's Media and Information Commission, backed naturally by the regime's newspaper and broadcasting mouthp

In the week Sept. 25 – Oct. 1, the attack came almost as a response to an invitation to MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso to attend a media law reform workshop organised by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), which consists of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), the media monitors and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
The Herald and ZBH radios reported the MIC attacking the three civic organisations for “portraying themselves to their foreign donors as regime change activists”
who would repeal internationally condemned laws banning press freedom and freedom of assembly, adding that they had clandestinely convened the workshop.
The state propagandists did not attempt to discuss the purpose of the workshop and simply allowed the MIC to vilify the civic organisations without question.
The Herald did carry a comment by ZUJ chairman Mathew Takaona at the end of an article. It claimed it could not get a comment from MISA and made no attempt to get one from the media monitors.
“Clearly, the deliberate distortion of the truth and the hypocrisy expressed in the MIC statement demonstrates the depths of dishonesty the institution is prepared to employ in order to defend its intolerance of any debate about the need to encourage media development by repealing draconian laws that throttle the free flow of information,” said MMPZ.
In the week reviewed by MMPZ, Robert Mugabe was still praising the police for brutal attacks on trade unionists who attempted to demonstrate. This makes subsequent claims by the police that the trade unionists injured themselves sound even more fatuous.
Take, for example, ZTV, Spot FM and Radio Zimbabwe all quoting Mugabe as saying the police were doing fine job “to ensure peace and order,” that anyone who resisted police orders would be “dealt with forcefully,” and all the rest. The official dailies, The Herald and The Chronicle, were equally keen to carry Mugabe’s shameless defence of police brutality.
The private media, with the usual exception of the Mirror group, challenged Mugabe, viewing his comments as an illustration of state complicity in human rights abuses, and carried expressions of dismay from the United Nations, the International Bar Association and international trade unions.
Studio 7, the Gazette and the Zimbabwe Independent, for example, quoted IBA executive director Mark Ellis saying that Mugabe’s statements “added weight to evidence that torture and other serious violations of international law” were “sanctioned at the highest level in Zimbabwe.”
Unfortunately, nothing new in that. But Mugabe might even have been pleased with the IBA response, given how he praised the brutal assaults in the police cells.
The state media’s coverage of forthcoming council and parliamentary elections is true to form: most stories were simply advertisements for Zanu (PF), some mentions of the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC faction, and nothing of course for Morgan Tsvangarai’s MDC.
“As a result, the electorate was left no wiser on the state of the voters’ rolls, the number of polling stations and their location, war and constituency boundaries and identification particulars required for voting,” said MMPZ. “Neither was there any effort to establish how many observers would be accredited for the polls.”
Well, there wouldn’t be, would there.

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