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Violent clashes in Highfield
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2007-6
Monday February 12th 2007 – Sunday February 18th 2007

THE government media’s role as messengers of government propaganda was well illustrated at the end of the week under review by the manner in which they covered up for the violent police dispersal of thousands of people who had attempted to attend a court-sanctioned MDC rally in Highfield on Sunday.

Instead of informing their audiences of this flagrant disregard for the rule of law by reporting that the police had initiated the violent clashes and had thereby defied a High Court order barring them from interfering with the rally, ZBC (18/2, evening bulletins), The Herald and Chronicle (19/2) deliberately distorted the facts to project the MDC as a violent and lawless party.

They dishonestly presented the opposition as being responsible for triggering the violence that erupted in the Harare suburb. 

The Herald, for example, reported that the MDC had “unleashed violence” ahead of the party’s rally, which it claimed “eventually failed to take place” as opposition’s “rowdy” youths “fought battles with the police”.

It then simply allowed police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena to attempt to justify the police’s unlawful conduct on the basis that the opposition had “perpetrated acts of violence” in the past without viewing such actions as contemptuous of the courts.

To amplify this flimsy defence The Herald then referred to an unrelated event that resulted in the arrest of 10 MDC supporters and two opposition MPs on allegations of “carrying out illegal demonstrations in Harare”.

The paper and its counterparts simply regarded the police action as a rational response to unreasonable civil disobedience without viewing it as a reflection of the authorities’ determination to crush growing discontent.

Neither did they interpret the developments as an affirmation of the authorities’ paranoia and the extent to which Zimbabwe has become a police state.

It was against this background that the government media continued to suffocate other stories about the ongoing erosion of Zimbabweans’ civil liberties.

Only the private media fully exposed such rights violations.

During the week they carried 10 new incidents of rights abuses.

These included the police barring other MDC gatherings, the arrest of its members, civic activists and university students, and the politicisation of food in Chiredzi South.

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