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2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles
law was breached in Zim - report
Shaw, Associated Press
March 14, 2008
Harare - Zimbabwe's
only television station - which is government-controlled - gave
the ruling party campaign more than 20 times the coverage the opposition
got last month, independent media monitors said on Thursday, accusing
state-controlled media of "flagrant
violations" of laws meant to ensure March 29 general elections
are free and fair. The Zimbabwe
Media Monitoring Project group said that in February state television
aired 202 minutes on the ruling Zanu PF party's election preparations
compared to nine minutes on the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change and 26 minutes on former ruling party loyalist and finance
minister Simba Makoni's presidential challenge and his expulsion
from the ruling party. "ZBC, the national public broadcaster,
now behaves as if it is Zanu PF 's own private radio television
station in flagrant violation" of domestic laws and regional
African norms on fair coverage of election campaigning, the group
director general of the state broadcaster, said there was no bias
against ruling party opponents but political advertisements had
to be paid for in advance, an arrangement opponents failed to honor
while the ruling party paid fees "up front". He did not
elaborate on news coverage. An independent group of lawyers, meanwhile,
protested what it called voter intimidation by military chiefs.
Zimbabwe defense forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga and
the head of the prisons service Major General Paradzai Zimondi were
reported to have vowed they would
not recognize or salute anyone but Mugabe as head of state.
for Human Rights said in a statement it was also concerned by
reports members of the armed forces were sent on vacation to their
rural homes to campaign for Mugabe's ruling party.
described Makoni and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as "sell
outs" who did not fight against colonial era forces ahead of
independence in 1980. Police commanders also have publicly pledged
their allegiance to Mugabe, the nation's longtime ruler, and warned
police against voting for Mugabe's opponents. Such statements created
an environment of fear and intimidation ahead of the polls, the
lawyers group said. Under election law, "it is a criminal offense
to intimidate people with the effect of compelling them or attempting
to compel them to vote for a particular political party or candidate,"
it said. In a statement Thursday, the International Bar Association
it called a series of attacks by Zimbabwe's on the Law Society of
Zimbabwe, citing articles in state-run newspapers accusing the lawyers
group of working with the West to get around a government ban on
European election observers.
"These are ominous
words in light of the Mugabe regime's record of brutality against
the political opposition and human rights defenders," said
Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.
"The true objective of this vindictive government campaign
is to justify a clampdown on independent lawyers in the run-up to
the election." The 84-year-old Mugabe faces his biggest poll
challenge March 29 in the campaign of Makoni, 57, who draws support
from ruling party rebels and disillusioned supporters of the fractured
opposition amid an economic meltdown. A nation once known as the
region's breadbasket is experiencing the world's highest official
inflation of 100 500 percent, chronic shortages of most basic goods
and collapsing public services. Most observers link the political
and economic turmoil to the often violent seizures of thousands
of white-owned commercial farms that began at Mugabe's orders in
2000. Mugabe blames the crisis on economic curbs imposed by Britain,
the former colonial power, and its Western allies, which accuse
him of violating human and democratic rights.
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