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Print and Electronic Daily Media Update #5
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
March 26-27th, 2005

1. Daily Print Media Update No.5: March 27th, 2005

The Sunday News was not publicly available at the time this report was compiled.

a. Campaigns
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 Murewa.

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, SABC.

Although The 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.

Any alternative 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 in passing.

Its largely 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













By comparison, 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.

The remaining 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.

In contrast, 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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