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and Electronic Daily Media Update #5
Print Media Update No.5: March 27th, 2005
The Sunday News was not publicly available at the time this report
THE government controlled press continued to give extensive coverage
to ZANU PF campaign activities while ignoring those of the MDC,
smaller parties and independent candidates. For instance, all three
stories The Sunday Mail carried were on ZANU PF. One of the reports
was on President Mugabe's campaign rally in Mhondoro while the remaining
two was an editorial and an opinion which both endorsed ZANU PF's
policies. For example, Lowani Ndlovu's article, Tsvangirai: Rhodesia
cannot be 'a new beginning', disparaged policies of the MDC saying
it was a party of "political expression of white retribution on
a black society that dares to become its own". Using the Zimbabwe
Independent publisher's personal opinion on the political situation
in the country, Ndlovu claimed that, "only Zanu-PF and President
Mugabe can help Zimbabwe make a new beginning".
The paper ignored
campaign activities of the MDC, particularly its star rallies in
Gweru and Bulawayo. Smaller parties and independent candidates were
also ignored. Likewise, the private papers ignored smaller opposition
parties and independents. Instead, they only focused on the MDC
and ZANU PF campaigns in the five reports they carried on campaigns,
all of which appeared in The Standard. Out of the five stories,
two were on the campaign activities of the MDC, while three were
critical of ZANU PF's campaign methods. Two MDC stories, which appeared
in one article, were on Morgan Tsvangirai's rallies in Gweru and
Two on ZANU
PF, exposed the ruling party's campaign tactics, which included
its use of food and music bashes to woo votes. The other report
was a comment in which the paper observed that allegations by the
authorities that the MDC was training militias to destabilise the
country was part of government's attempts to "strike fear in the
hearts of opposition members...because of the threat of facing treason
trial". However, The Standard ignored the MDC's big rally in Bulawayo,
which was even covered by South Africa's national broadcasting corporation,
Sunday Mirror did not carry any campaign activities of the contesting
parties, it reported on the recent poll by University of Zimbabwe
political scientist Joseph Kurebwa showing that ZANU PF will win
the elections with an increased margin than the previous parliamentary
poll. The other two reports were previews of the possible outcome
of the elections. While The Sunday Mirror, which seemingly endorsed
Kurebwa's findings, The Standard quoted a research officer with
the Mass Public Opinion Institute dismissing the poll as '"trash"
as it was impossible for ZANU PF to win with a wider margin". The
MDC was also quoted dismissing Kurebwa's findings.
b. Administrative stories
THE Sunday Mail carried eight reports on administrative issues.
One of its stories was a report on Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's
denial of The Financial Gazette report claiming that soldiers had
already cast their ballots. The other report was on the decision
by the Electoral Act to overturn its earlier ruling allowing jailed
MDC MP for Chimanimani to stand in the elections. Otherwise, the
other six reports on administrative issues sought to legitimise
the electoral framework and gave the impression that all was in
place for the elections.
views suggesting the contrary were largely suffocated. For example,
MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube and Zimbabwe Youths in Alliance
(ZIYA)'s concerns over the electoral process were only mentioned
one-sided approach in handling the matter was reflected in its sourcing
pattern as shown in Fig 1.
Fig 1 Voice
distribution in The Sunday Mail
The Standard carried four reports on administrative issues. One
report was a follow-up to allegations that members of the security
forces have already voted. The paper claimed that members of the
police and the army "compulsorily received ballot papers and voted
for the coming general elections without even applying for them".
However, it quoted the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) saying
the army had applied for 2,527 postal ballots but only 1,262 qualified
for postal ballots.
two reports were on the South African Democratic Alliance (DA) observer
team's initial assessment of the electoral process and Independent
Democrats' decision to pull out of the South African parliamentary
observer mission calling it a "farce" as "it was clear that the
upcoming Zimbabwean elections are not going to be free and fair".
The remaining story was on the protest by SADC Parliamentary Forum
over its exclusion from observing the poll. The only report carried
by the Sunday Mirror on administrative issues was a puff piece on
the role of ZEC.
Still none of
the media have attempted to inform their audiences about the role
and identity of monitors in the election, particularly because these
individuals are all appointed by the ESC and play a key role in
deciding whether the voting and counting processes are fair. The
fact that The Sunday Mail merely reported in passing "that the ESC
had appointed 32,000 civil servants to monitor the election", is
grossly inadequate. The paper however, it did provide some more
detail about the technical aspects of the election.
c. Political violence
THE government controlled Press continued to suffocate incidences
of political violence to give a picture of normality ahead of the
elections. Instead, The Sunday Mail carried a report on the deployment
of the police to polling stations countrywide to ensure a violence
free election and another story claiming that the five youths allegedly
trained by the MDC to destabilise the country were "a small part
of a grand scheme by the opposition party to cause mayhem in the
country ahead of the elections". No evidence was provided to substantiate
the claims nor was the MDC quoted on the matter.
The Standard reported on the disruption of an MDC campaign rally
in Murehwa Centre by ZANU PF activists. The report, which was part
of a story on the rally, did not seek comment from the police. The
paper reported the Democratic Alliance representative as saying
there were widespread cases of intimidation of opposition supporters.
The paper also carried an article by a victim of rights abuses perpetrated
by the police in one of their stations in Bulawayo. There were no
reports of politically motivated violence in The Sunday Mirror.
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