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Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
from Weekly Media Update 2005-47
Monday December 5th – Sunday December 11th
media’s reluctance to openly discuss issues that reflect badly on
government was illustrated by their lop-sided coverage of the recent
visit by UN envoy Jan Egeland to assess the humanitarian crisis
triggered by Operation Murambatsvina.
Almost all their
34 stories (ZBH  and official Press ) on the matter largely
censored Egeland’s critical remarks on the humanitarian situation
in the country and passively amplified the authorities’ attacks
on the envoy, whom they portrayed as part of Western machinations
to demonise Zimbabwe.
As the envoy
began his work, The Herald and Chronicle (5/12)
adopted pre-emptive positions on his mission by simplistically projecting
it as being carried out to supersede an earlier "one-sided
damning" assessment by the UN’s Anna Tibaijuka.
The papers also
gave the impression that the visit follows government’s "reservations"
over Tibaijuka’s report, which President Mugabe relayed to UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, who obliged by sanctioning a follow-up evaluation by
The next day,
the Chronicle sought to influence Egeland into making favourable
findings on Murambatsvina by creating the impression that
any critical comments on Zimbabwe can never be independent but driven
by what it portrays as the West’s crusade against Harare.
Said the paper:
"We trust and hope that he (Egeland) will execute his
mission with an open mind and won’t be blinkered by political machinations
of Britain and the United States – two countries that are eager
to have Harare censured for alleged human rights violations".
It then tried
to promote Murambatsvina saying it was not a "callous
exercise but a well thought out operation, which has successfully
rid the country’s towns and cities of illegal settlements and activities",
adding that the "massive housing" programme,
Operation Garikai, had resulted in "thousands
of people getting accommodation".
the paper (7/12) nor The Herald of the same day wondered
why government was keen on the UN’s provision of "permanent"
structures for Murambatsvina victims if Garikai was
such a success.
When it emerged
that Egeland had disagreed with Mugabe over tents the UN intended
to provide for Murambatsvina victims, ZTV (6/12, 8pm) tried
to criminalise Egeland’s meetings with civic society representatives
by portraying the envoy as insincere in his dealings. It gave the
notion that Egeland had breached parametres of his visit by holding
"private marathon meetings" with church
leaders "instead of touring government projects in Cowdray
Park" in Bulawayo.
(7/12) carried a similar report saying that while Egeland’s meeting
with Matabeleland North Governor Thokozile Mathuthu was open to
the Press, he insisted on a "private meeting"
with church leaders. By the end of the week, the government and
the papers they control became even more hostile to Egeland following
the envoy’s critical comments on the humanitarian effects of Murambatsvina.
ZBH (9/12, 6
& 8pm), The Herald and Chronicle (10/12) passively
reported President Mugabe castigating Egeland as a "hypocrite
and liar" and threatening to bar further
visits by envoys who are not the UN Secretary-General’s "own"
but "agents of the British".
The two official
dailies further quoted Mugabe saying, like Tibaijuka, Egeland had
deviated from his humanitarian mission to pursue a political agenda
and pretended to "share our views" only
to say "nasty things about us" when he left
ZANU PF Secretary
for Information Nathan Shamuyarira amplified Mugabe’s position on
ZBH (11/12, 6 & 8pm) adding that Egeland had failed to "stick
to the truth regarding his visit to Zimbabwe" but
"deliberately provided wrong figures that are at variance
with those of the UN agencies that are in Zimbabwe".
There was no
discussion on the figures Shamuyarira was referring to or attempts
to apprise ZBH audiences on what exactly Egeland had said.
the government media verify or balance Mugabe’s allegations. Instead,
the official Press carried 14 reports that sought to give a favourable
image of the country, including the portrayal of Garikai
as a success. The partisan manner in which the official media handled
the topic was reflected by their failure to balance official comments
with independent views. See Figs 1 and 2.
Fig 1. Voice
distribution on ZBH
Egeland was given more space, his quotes were heavily edited to
give only a sanitized picture of the situation.
Fig 2. Voice
distribution in the government Press
sourcing pattern of the government Press appeared balanced, nearly
all the alternative voices, including Egeland’s, were quoted in
the context of giving a positive image of government’s urban clearances.
the private media were more professional in their approach as they
clearly reported the envoy’s concerns on the humanitarian crisis
and sought divergent views in the 24 stories they carried (private
stations  and private Press ) on the subject.
the private stations (6 & 7/12) and The Daily Mirror
(7/12) gave clear coverage of the disagreements between Egeland
and Mugabe on the provision of shelter to Murambatsvina victims.
Gazette (8/12), Zimbabwe Independent (9/12)
and The Standard (11/12) also gave Egeland and other
alternative voices greater space to articulate their views as captured
in Fig 3.
Fig 3 Voice
distribution in the private Press
while the government media censored Egeland’s unflattering comments
on Murambatsvina, including his endorsement of Tibaijuka’s
findings, SW Radio Africa, Studio 7 (8/12), the Gazette, the
Independent and The Standard reported openly on the
Studio 7 and
the Independent reported that Egeland viewed the situation
in Zimbabwe as not only "very serious" and
requiring the speedy implementation of Tibaijuka’s recommendations,
but that it was now a "meltdown".
agreed, noting that contrary to The Herald, Chronicle
and The Daily Mirror (10/12) reports, which passively cited
Mugabe as saying Egeland had waited until he was out of the country
to say "nasty" things about government,
he had actually issued his stinging criticism of Murambatsvina
"on Zimbabwean soil". In addition, the paper
reported Egeland as revealing that government had "confessed
to messing up" its demolition blitz although he declined
to name the government officials.
SW Radio Africa
(7/12) and The Standard revealed that security agents had
unsuccessfully tried to bar Egeland from getting first hand information
on the disastrous effects of Murambatsvina. The weekly reported
that the government agents had "repeatedly tried to gatecrash
the private meetings but found UN security officers uncompromising".
Chronicle (7 & 10/12) made reference to the matter, it
only used the incident to reinforce its notion that the envoy was
engaged in clandestine meetings during his visit to Bulawayo.
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