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Weekly Media Review 2011-25
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Monday June 20th - Sunday June 26th 2011
July 01, 2011

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ZANU PF steps up campaign against private media

As this report was being complied, SW Radio Africa and NewsDay (29 & 30/6) reported the arrest of journalists Nevanji Madanhire (editor) and Patience Nyangove (senior reporter) and company representative Loud Ramakgapola from the private weekly, The Standard, over a story the paper published on June 19th about the arrest and detention of MDC-T Minister Jameson Timba.

Reportedly, the three were charged with criminal defamation under Section 31 (A) (iii) and 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification) and Reform Act, after its front-page report: MDC-T fears for missing Timba's life, claimed Timba had been arrested by police officers, including "the notorious Crispen Makedenge", when Makedenge was allegedly "not present and involved in the arrest". The section criminalizes "publication of false statements prejudicial to the State" and that "undermines public confidence in law enforcement agencies".

The arrests came barely two days after the Daily News (28/6) reported an imminent crackdown on private media journalists, allegedly to discourage them from criticizing President Mugabe and his ZANU PF party, at the instigation of an unnamed ZANU PF politburo member, presumed to be Jonathan Moyo. These also came in the wake of a sustained propaganda campaign by Moyo, mostly on the national broadcaster, ZBC, and the official weekly, The Sunday Mail, depicting journalists working for the private media as having been recruited by Britain to effect illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.

This was reflected in 11 stories the government media carried from June 19th to June 26th.

ZTV gave this "news" excessive prominence in their evening bulletins over four consecutive nights (21, 22, 23 & 24/6, 6 & 8pm) alleging that the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Office was "in possession of more that £3m" to "fund operations on the private media in tarnishing the image and person of President Mugabe" under the supervision of Jameson Timba, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office.

It quoted Moyo: "We know that it is Jameson Timba who is doing that coordination . . . This idea that we can have people behaving in this manner . . . has gone too far (and) is unacceptable and we must confront it".

The latest developments pose a major threat to renewed hopes for genuine media reforms, reflected in revelations that some senior ZANU PF officials now backed the reforms. Among these is ZANU PF Chivi South MP Irvene Dzingirai who urged government to "legalize" the operations of "pirate" radio stations such as SW Radio Africa and Studio 7, as they were "a vital source of information" (Radio VoP and NewsDay, 18 & 28/6).

Earlier, SW Radio Africa and ZimOnline (22 & 23/6) reported that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Communication Technology had called for a review of Zimbabwe's broadcasting laws and an end to ZBC's monopoly of the airwaves, as it was "incompatible" with Zimbabweans' right to freedom of expression, in its report about the state of the media in the country.

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