via ZANU PF seeks Chinese help in media control | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu November 28, 2013
In a move seen as part of a strategy to entrench its hold on the public mind ZANU PF this week dispatched a media delegation to China, which is has one of the poorest records of media freedom in the world. The Chinese government censors all methods of communication to maintain its hold on information and power.
A 2012 Freedom House report said ‘China’s media environment remained one of the world’s most restrictive ’.
A ZBC report on Tuesday said the delegation, which is led by the party’s secretary for information and publicity Rugare Gumbo, was going on an ‘exchange programme with the Communist Party of China.’ The report said the visit was intended ‘primarily to exchange ideas on how to modernise the print and electronic media in so far as information dissemination is concerned’. Also according to the report Gumbo is expected to meet with the Communist Party’s Information Department to discuss ‘methods of countering western propaganda and improving the effectiveness of the respective departments’.
In late October information minister Jonathan Moyo and the Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lin Lin, discussed how China could ‘help Zimpapers to acquire a state-of-the-art printing press for its Bulawayo operations’. Lin was quoted saying China was ‘ready to assist in the development of the media industry’.
Only in August the ZBC acquired from China a state-of-the art 12 channel audio outside broadcast van, worth more than $ 1 million.
Media expert Dr Winston Mano told SW Radio Africa that Zimbabwe was seeking ‘to unlock Chinese support’ for the public media through ‘party to party relations’ as opposed to government to government corporation. Mano said China is ‘sensitive to the criticism it is receiving over its involvement in Africa’ and is trying hard to prop up its public image, hence the party to party corporation.
Mano said electronic media in Zimbabwe is badly equipped and ‘at the moment’ China is the only savior for the ZANU PF government with regards to new equipment.
Relations between ZANU PF and the Communist party back date to the 1970s liberation struggle.
Since Zimbabwe’s fall out with the West over human rights abuses and the land grab China and Zimbabwe have come closer, with the Asian giant at one time blocking UN targetted sanctions against its partner.
The visit to China comes at a time when the government is seen to be embarking on a sophisticated strategy to emasculate the media, using various tactics.
Only a few months ago Moyo embarked on a tour of media houses, with a charm offensive, urging cordial relations with his known adversaries. At the time his deputy, Supa Mandiwanzira, told the Senate that the government was in the process of licensing new radio stations to ‘get rid of pirate radio stations that have been spawning anti-Zimbabwe sentiments.’
A Thursday Herald report quoted Mandiwanzira urging media players to stop ‘spewing propaganda and politics’. Mandiwanzira warned media players that they would ‘soon be out of business’ if they persist with criticising President Mugabe and ZANU PF because ‘it has become unprofitable to do so’.
The government has been intermittently jamming SW Radio Africa broadcasts since 2005, using Chinese supplied equipment and training.