Report exposes culture of hate and intolerance in state media

Political analyst Professor John Makumbe, who launched the 152-page report titled "The Propaganda War on Electoral Democracy", last Thursday told SW Radio Africa that it was a well documented report covering the period during the 2008 polls – both the ‘harmonised’ elections and the Presidential one.

Makumbe said the months before the controversial elections were fairly peaceful but became very violent in June and those in the media also experienced arrests, beatings and torture.

He said the control of the public media and the biased reporting in favour of ZANU PF and Mugabe was very noticeable, and hate speech aimed at demeaning perceived opponents was rife. The analyst said ZANU PF’s favourite words were, and continue to be, ‘traitors, sell outs and puppets."

A whole chapter entitled The Language of Hate is contained in the report, with many examples of how publications such as The Herald, The Sunday Mail and broadcasts from ZBC, helped create a massive culture of intolerance.

On June 17 2008, Mugabe was quoted as saying in the Herald newspaper: "You can vote for him (Tsvangirai) but if he brings back the white, toenda kuhondo – (we will go to war).

Also in June the Manica Post published a statement by the late Vice President Joseph Msika saying: "If you vote for Tsvangirai on June 2, you are voting for the former Rhodesians and you are voting for war."

However Makumbe is not hopeful that change will be coming anytime soon. He said while the recommendations are good, it will take ‘forever’ to implement them, given the current situation and media climate in Zimbabwe.

Another report on the state of the media, by the Media Institute for South Africa (Zimbabwe Chapter), echoes the same sentiments. "While the establishment of the ZMC and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is key to the registration and re-registration of media houses and new players wishing to enter the print and broadcasting sector respectively, this could be a long time coming given the restrictive nature of the enabling legislation, notably AIPPA and Broadcasting Services Act," said MISA-Zimbabwe.

This report by the media watchdog details the media violations of 2009 and says that as Zimbabwe embarks on its constitutional reform process it is imperative that media self-regulation is underpinned by a constitutional provision, guaranteeing media freedom. MISA said the establishment of an independent broadcasting and telecommunications authority is the best system of instilling professionalism in the media, as well as an incentive for potential investors to invest in the media sector.

The body said a free press, as opposed to one controlled by the state as envisaged in terms of the proposed Zimbabwe Media Commission, will keep the government at arms length and help ‘foster media diversity, pluralism, independence and responsible journalism’. SW Radio Africa