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Election Watch Issue 18 - 2013
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
May 31, 2013
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rapped for bias
by Zimbabwe’s mainstream media, particularly the government-controlled
ones, to adhere to domestic and internationally recognized journalistic
standards when it comes to reporting on different political views
in the country has again been thrust in the spotlight. This time
by Zimbabwe’s most senior political luminaries: President
Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai.
signing the Constitution Amendment Bill into law, Mugabe “took
a swipe” at some unnamed sections of the media “for
peddling lies and using his name to push their sales” (Daily
News and Zi FM, 23/5). The President said: “Some are using
my name to sell their papers. Mugabe this, Mugabe that; I am compiling
all the Mugabe papers so that I claim compensation for making profit
with my name.”
He added: “Our
journalism must be journalism of truth; you are now being downgraded
because you act like people who have never been to school. Don’t
singled out the State-run Herald for being “obsessed”
with Tsvangirai: “Herald yakananganawo naVaTsvangirai (is
targeting Tsvangirai)” – The Daily News and Zi FM (23/5)
Three days earlier, The Herald, Newsday and Daily News (20/5) reported
Tsvangirai as having raised similar complaints against the State-run
media during the launch of his party's national policy conference
They quote Tsvangirai:
“You cannot have a newspaper with six articles saying Tsvangirai
this and Tsvangirai that. Every day! Regai vakadaro. But musi umwe
gava richadambura musungo (one day you will meet you fate).”
Tsvangirai added: “That kind of a media has no future in a
democratic Zimbabwe. I want to tell you this. Muchadya izvozvo”.
The Herald (22/5) ran a news report and an editorial comment projecting
Tsvangirai as having threatened to “close” the paper.
The news report was accompanied by calls from media representative
bodies such as Zimbabwe
Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and the Media
Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), discouraging political
interference in the activities of the media.
One of these,
ZUJ secretary general Foster Dongozi was quoted: “We appeal
to him (Tsvangirai) to protect the jobs of some journalists and
their welfare. We are appealing to him to protect them from today
and in the future. If the PM is not happy with the way other media
organizations are reporting on him and his party, there are other
avenues that he can take to seek recourse and not to threaten to
MMPZ fully subscribes
to ZUJ’s position that politicians have no business in interfering
or threatening media houses considering that there already exist
laws that provide more than adequate redress to those whose reputations
may have been harmed by false or inaccurate reporting.
It would be
tragic if these ‘grievances’ against the media by the
politicians were to be used as ammunition by those seeking excuses
to further control media activity in Zimbabwe to add more legal
constraints – in addition to the already battery of repressive
media laws – to continue to stifle media freedom in the country.
is equally important to state that the media should also seriously
take aboard genuine grievances from the public, not least from politicians,
as a way of promoting accountability and responsible journalism
in the media houses. That is as long as the complaints are not designed
to muzzle the media from playing its role of fully informing the
public about national developments, accountability in government
and the private sector, and those issues of public interest.
This is especially
so as there is growing evidence of the media in Zimbabwe exhibiting
varying degrees of bias and intolerance against those they do not
share the same political views with. These include individuals,
political parties, civic groups, and some sections of the international
And with the
country heading for yet another election, media organizations and
some parties have been complaining about an escalation of biased
media reportage by the media, some of which amounts to hate speech.
Some of this unprofessional journalistic conduct has been recorded
elsewhere in this report.
is indeed a sad state of affairs – and a vindication of the
media wasteland Zimbabwe has become – when it has become the
norm for the public, including the President and the Prime Minister
of the country – to predict unerringly which media outlet
will carry which political point of view.
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