|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Monday April 26th – Sunday May 2nd 2003
The Weekly Media Update 2004-17
1. MEDIA FREEDOM UNDER SIEGE
2. IMAGE BUILDING
3. HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
AS the democratic world commemorated World Press Freedom Day on Monday, May 3rd, the Zimbabwean authorities were threatening to close down one of the few remaining independent sources of information in the country.
The government appointed Media and Information Commission demonstrated the extensive control the authorities now have over the public dissemination of information by accusing the new owners of the privately owned weekly Tribune newspaper of publishing illegally in violation of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (The Herald, 3/5).
But this is only the latest government assault on the democratic ethos of media freedom that the United Nations-sponsored event is intended to promote and safeguard. Only a small group of media workers and human rights defenders gathered to take stock of the damage inflicted on Zimbabweans’ right to free expression by a determined and systematic campaign by government to silence all sources of information critical of its policies and actions.
More than 100 journalists have been arrested under AIPPA and the equally repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA), many others have been harassed and assaulted by security forces and scores of journalists have been deprived of their jobs following the government’s violent shut-down of the country’s most popular daily paper, The Daily News, and its Sunday sister publication.
In addition, the government has hijacked the national public broadcasting corporation and the traditional daily and weekly regional newspaper stable of publications, Zimpapers, formerly held by a public trust, to disseminate its propaganda and wage an unrelenting war on its critics. Independent broadcasting also remains a figment of repressive legislation.
Instead of operating according to basic international standards of journalistic practice, the government-controlled media continue to be used to disseminate abusive messages vilifying and persecuting individuals, minorities and political opposition and promoting racism and intolerance, often bordering on incitement to hatred.
MMPZ laments this cynical abuse of the media and the legislative process to create and entrench such a hostile, intolerant and authoritarian political environment.
Notably, the latest victim of the government media’s campaign to discredit individuals has been the ZANU PF Member of Parliament, Kindness Paradza, the new publisher of the Tribune, whose maiden speech in Parliament recently critically analyzed the country’s repressive media laws.
Instead of capturing and condemning this sad scenario in the country’s media sector on World Press Freedom Day, ZTV (3/5, 8pm) first made the absurd announcement that “media experts and analysts” believed “Zimbabwe has made commendable strides in creating a conducive environment for freedom of the Press since… 1980”, before stating that Press freedom “should not be misconstrued as an opportunity to demonise the country and destroy the social and political fibre which unites the people”.
MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso was then quoted endorsing the country’s repressive media laws saying they were promulgated following “hundreds of workshops” debating the issue. “These laws were tested…in terms of parliamentary procedures…signed by the Executive… They were challenged in the courts…and…have withstood the democratic test”, said Mahoso, who was found to be biased against The Daily News by a High Court judge last year, and whose commission was judged to be “improperly constituted”. Mahoso’s comments were allowed to pass without challenge.
ZTV’s Media Watch (3/5, 9pm) went on to echo the authorities’ absurd assertion that Press freedom was a Western concept, whose principles could not be applied universally.
IN an effort to play down the adverse consequences of Zimbabwe’s international isolation, the government-controlled media have relentlessly seized opportunities presented by events of international stature to give the impression that the country still enjoyed international popularity.
The just ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) was this week used to buttress this perspective. Despite evidence clearly showing that small indigenous firms dominated the once regionally renowned international trade showcase, the government media claimed the event was a success.
Coupled with this, they used the reception accorded President Mugabe at the inauguration of South African President Thabo Mbeki and pro-Zimbabwe statements made by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa and Namibian leader Sam Nujoma as proof that the international community, particularly the developing world, supported the country’s leadership and its policies.
But in their efforts to present the fair as a triumph, the government media gave contradictory and confusing information on the number of exhibitors. For example, The Herald (28/4) claimed that “a total of 627 exhibitors including 10 from other countries” exhibited at the fair adding that this was “the best attendance in four years”. A full list of foreign countries exhibiting at the event was omitted, but appeared in the Zimbabwe Independent (30/4) and the Sunday Mirror (2/5). The paper then claimed that participants had said the increase in the number of exhibitors was a show of confidence in government’s economic policies.
The Sunday Mail (02/05) quoted Industry and Trade Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi saying, “ZITF 2004 was a unique fair” as it attracted “631 exhibitors”.
Mumbengegwi made similar comments on ZTV (29/4, 6 & 8pm) saying he was “satisfied with the increase in the number of exhibitors…” But the Sunday News (2/5) contradicted these claims. It quoted ZITF general manager Daniel Chigaru as saying, “662 companies participated at this year’s exhibition… Last year the Trade Fair attracted 734 participants.” But like its stablemates, the paper still maintained that the fair was a success. As proof, the paper noted that “the space covered by this year’s event increased from last year’s 42 000 square metres to more than 49 000 square metres, giving more room to small and medium-scale enterprises and flea markets”.
There was no analysis on how this might help resuscitate the country’s ailing economy.
Instead, Power FM (29/4, 8pm) quoted businessman and ZANU PF MP Walter Mzembi presenting the upsurge in small-scale industries as indicative of the country’s economic recovery. He was quoted as saying “imported goods and luxuries” that were showcased in previous events “had no bearing to home grown solutions to our economic challenges…”
The private media refuted these claims. For example, the Sunday Mirror pointed out that while the fair was meant to facilitate trade deals that would create wealth for the country, “the atmosphere resembled that of a flea market, where perishables are sold to members on the public”. It further noted that the fair’s business days, which are only open to the business sector were low key and could have been mistaken for “a window shopping affair at one of the capital city’s malls”.
The Zimbabwe Independent revealed that ZITF’s livestock section, one of the fair’s attractions, had few exhibitors. About “three-quarters of the cattle pens (were) empty…”, it reported, adding that “only two donkeys” were notable at the livestock display.
MDC economic adviser Eddie Cross described the industrial section as “pathetic” and attributed the poor livestock display to the absence of commercial farmers who traditionally supported it. Said Cross: “Until we get back to normal political and economic activities there will not be a change to the situation…and exhibiting at the ZITF is a waste of time as exporters are closing shop”.
The Tribune (30/4) also exposed the fair’s failure to attract livestock exhibitors in its article, Donkeys add flavour to fair.
The Herald and Chronicle (29/4) however, claimed that exhibitors were happy with the deals they had struck. But besides the “$5million worth of confectionery ordered from Biscuitman company” by local retail shops and individuals, no other evidence was given to substantiate the claim that “brisk business” had been recorded at the fair.
The ZITF was not the only event that the government media milked to gloss over the effects of Zimbabwe’s isolation. The rousing welcome Mugabe received at Mbeki’s inauguration provided evidence of his regional popularity and was exploited by the government media to illustrate the credibility of his fight against the Western world.
For example, ZTV (27/4, 8pm) claimed that Mugabe received a standing ovation because he “has endeared himself to many on the African continent and beyond because of his resolute stance against all forms of oppression of the weak and poor by the rich North.”
The Herald (29/4) echoed similar views, adding that the incident, together with his Earth Summit speech and the reception he received at Walter Sisulu’s funeral, “provide some idea of the polarity of this fiery son of the soil”.
However, SW Radio Africa (27/4) quoted political analyst Stanford Mukasa dismissing the significance of Mugabe’s reception saying, “when Idi Amin was chairman of the OAU he also received a standing ovation even during the times when there was disturbing news from Uganda about his cruel rule.”
The Zimbabwe Independent revealed its reluctance to concede the possibility of Mugabe’s popularity by claiming vaguely that it was told by “somebody who was present” that the welcome received by Mugabe emanated from the “VIP stands” adding that “the general public were less enthusiastic”. But it didn’t seek to corroborate this impression, or investigate the possibility of such popularity, a phenomenon that even some in the South African Press found “bewildering”.
The paper however, did reveal that Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon had used his attendance of Mbeki’s inauguration to lobby African leaders to find a resolution to Zimbabwe’s deepening crisis.
His strategy to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis found expression through the French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, whom The Herald (29/5) quoted as saying South Africa, as an African country, should be given another chance to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.
However, none of the media asked whether African countries would achieve the desired result considering that most have studiously backed Mugabe’s policies in the name of African solidarity. Clear evidence of this unbridled support appeared in the Chronicle and The Herald (30/5). They quoted Namibia’s President Nujoma as saying he would “openly” support Zimbabwe “whether imperialists like it or not”. Said Nujoma: “We want to tell colonialists that we are ready 24 hours if they dare to attack any of our countries, they will meet us here”, adding that Mugabe was a “shining example of resisting imperialism and colonialism”.
WHILE the government and the media it controls have targeted civic society and the opposition MDC in their campaign to suffocate critical voices, it emerged during the week that members of the ruling party who hold different views, are not safe either.
The Herald and the Chronicle (29/4) reported that ZANU PF’s Mashonaland Province had suspended its Makonde MP and publisher of The Tribune, Kindness Paradza, from carrying out party work for allegedly “undermining party and government programmes and policies by serving foreign and enemy interests”.
His suspension followed unsubstantiated claims by The Sunday Mail (25/4) that Paradza was seeking help from Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the defunct Daily News, to get British funding for the Tribune, which has of late become critical of government policies.
Despite the fact that Paradza and the ANZ denied the allegations in The Tribune, The Herald’s faceless Nathaniel Manheru (1/5) insisted that he was guilty. Using his typically childish insults, Manheru attacked Paradza, saying he was “bereft of sound education, principles and means”, adding that he “has never been a creature of depth and cause”. To substantiate the claims that he was seeking British funding for his paper Manheru alleged that Paradza had held a “furtive conversation” with British Ambassador Sir Brian Donnelly during Namibia’s National Day.
The government Press merely vilified Paradza and presented his suspension as the right course of action by ZANU PF. The papers did not explore the fact that like any other citizen, he has a constitutional right to associate with any individual including Sir Brian, if ever he did talk to him.
The Zimbabwe Independent and The Tribune condemned Paradza’s persecution and pointed out that he was being punished for criticizing the repressive Broadcasting Services Act and AIPPA during his maiden parliamentary speech and suggesting that government should revisit the laws to encourage investment in the media sector.
The Independent warned: “ZANU PF MPs should beware. Speak out in Parliament and you could find yourself deselected…”
However, The Sunday Mail (2/5) quoted the Department of Information denying reports that Paradza was being persecuted for castigating media laws. It said it was not offended “by ignorant remarks” made by an “ignorant novice parliamentarian.”
Meanwhile, the violent seizure of Kondozi farm in the name of the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which resulted in the former farm workers being denied their basic rights to shelter and sanitation, continued to attract media attention. SW Radio Africa (27/4) reported that, “The farm workers from Kondozi have now spent two weeks in the open.” The station interviewed a former worker, who revealed that they were “…hiding in fear of their lives…” after being evicted.
Subsequently, the station (29/4) reported that the police had shot at and arrested a former farm worker. The police accused him of “stealing a vehicle belonging to Kondozi”, allegations denied by the worker and his former employer.
The Herald (29/4) carried the story and quoted a police spokesman saying they were “investigating the disappearance of assets at the farm” and fired shots after the worker had resisted arrest.
The Zimbabwe Independent reported that ARDA had “confiscated four vehicles that were used by management plus motorbikes”.
In an effort to counter such reports highlighting chaos at Kondozi, ZTV (27/4,8pm) carried footage of people working on the farm. Transport Minister Christopher Mushowe was then quoted claiming that production at the farm was continuing peacefully adding that, “…what has been written in newspapers, what has been said by our detractors has no substance, has no basis at all.” The Sunday Mail concurred in its vitriolic opinion piece, Sellout papers peddling lies about Kondozi farm, which conveyed a crudely racist message. Instead of explaining the situation at Kondozi, the article accused “British mouthpieces” at the privately owned newspapers of “telling lies” and “selling out under the mentality that what whites can do blacks cannot do”.
Said its faceless author, Lowani Ndlovu, incitefully: “Zimbabweans need to stand up against sellouts in the media, business, politics, law, civil society and the whole works. We must confront the internal enemy once and for all”.
During the week the private media also exposed the force the police continue to use to suppress public protests. The Daily Mirror (29/4) and SW Radio Africa (29/4) both reported that the police had assaulted and arrested members of the National Constitutional Assembly who were demonstrating for constitutional reform. The Mirror carried a front page picture showing police officers beating up one of the protesters, while SW Radio Africa (29/4) reported that, “three people…assaulted by the police…are still in hospital.”
The station also revealed that those arrested were released without charge.
In fact, this has become the norm. As Studio 7 (26/4) revealed, 90 percent of the MDC leadership have been arrested and none of them have been convicted. Most have had charges against them dropped.
The MEDIA UPDATE was produced and circulated by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, 15 Duthie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 703702, E-mail: email@example.com
Feel free to write to MMPZ. We may not able to respond to everything but we will look at each message. For previous MMPZ reports, and more information about the Project, please visit our website at http://www.mmpz.org.zw
Audience question: The England cricket team looks like fulfilling the tour to Zimbabwe to avoid a large fine. Is the survival of cricket worth more than democracy?
Sport is a result of culture, culture is respondent to ideology and ideology
is acquired and controlled through the state. Whether we like it or not sport is
interlinked with beliefs of a country. Cricket is therefore an ambassador for
our country. The England cricket team should not go to Zimbabwe.
Olly Matthews, Hull
Text: Zimbabwe - Why is our government so spineless?
I believe we should isolate Zimbabwe as the president is hurting his own
countrymen. However he has been doing this for years - why are we talking this
way now? It is the hypocrisy that stinks.
Errol Anderson, Balham, London
Text: Sport and politics should not overlap each other.
Politicians ostracised South Africa with apartheid, preventing rugby tours by
the British Lions among other sporting events. Sport is sport, politics are
politics. Keep them separate. The sportsmen do not initiate the sanctions and
isolation caused by political wrangling.
Text: The team should make its own mind up.
Congratulations to the Bishop on his comments about Zimbabwe. Yvette Cooper's
comments on behalf of the government were pathetic, as have been those of the
South African Government over the years.
Ian Stewart, Canterbury
Text: The Bishop is completely right about Mugabe. As a believer in
British democracy I won't support an English team who is willing to give
credibility to a murderous regime.
Here are Zimbabwe's main exports according to an online encyclopaedia:
Asbestos, Chrome, Cotton, Foodstuffs, Gold, Tobacco. No petrochemicals - no
Jamie Watson, Ayr
Is it only me that thinks it is wrong that we have targeted sanctions against
Zimbabwe yet we allow our sportsmen to travel there playing as our national
team? Surely sportsmen playing as a national team should be the first action a
government takes with regard to showing displeasure. We are not talking about
individuals or private companies working, this is our national cricket team.
Forget the financial implications and think about the people who are suffering
in Zimbabwe, they are the important people in this.
Pete Spencer, Leeds
Text: Why cricket? Why not British businesses which continue to make
If Zimbabwe had oil like Iraq and not tobacco as its main crop, the
government (along with the US) would have sent the troops in long ago. One rule
for one and one for another. We should not go and play cricket and the
government should say so.
Terry Hill, Essex
The government should order the ECB to cancel the tour to Zimbabwe. The ICB
and the member countries would lose huge amounts of revenue if England did not
tour, or if they were not able to tour England if England were excluded from the
ICC. They could not survive without England.
David Cooper, Kirkby-in-Ashfield