Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Free Media

I found myself in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, a few weeks ago, and I was horrified by the political bias in the state controlled press.

The Herald had this banner headline on the front page :


and the following "story" :

The news that opposition politicians will once again be fighting for votes at next month's local elections has sparked outrage in Harare.

Council leader Musiiwa Chikorobho (ZAPU) said the announcement that the MDC is targeting the area in next month's council election has left him "devastated".

As nominations for the May elections closed yesterday, the MDC had registered four candidates in Harare and two in Chitungwiza.

In Harare, Alex Gweru, of Seza Road, Timba, is standing in Timba township and Alicias Denhere, of Mangisi Heights, Mutare, is standing in Madziwa.

Johane Masowe, of Lon Gutu, Manatsa Town, is hoping to be elected in Manatsa, while Samuel Moyana, of Rhodes Settlement, Chavhunduka, is appearing on the Makomeke ballot papers.

Councillor Chikorobho said: "I am absolutely devastated.

"I think the ordinary people of Harare will be absolutely devastated that these particular people have been able to get a nomination paper signed.

"I think the citizens of this city will be wise enough to see these individuals do not, and will never, represent their feelings."

ZANU-PF group leader Councillor David Phillips said: "It is regrettable the MDC thinks Harare is fertile ground for them.

"I sincerely believe they are mistaken.

"Neither I nor any ZANU candidate will share a platform with them.

"This is a party that deserves no support."

In Chitungwiza, Adie Kembo, of Manicaland Road, Honde Valley, Penhalonga, is standing in the Penhalonga ward and Kevin Netsai, of Tokoloshe Drive, Raphela, Lalapanzi, is standing in that ward.

Two things struck me about the story - the main headline in the weekend edition of the paper.

First, it was essentially a non-story - or a manufactured one. Stripping out the outrage and devastation revealed the fact that two politicos didn't like a third party that was about to stand against them in the elections. Giving them a free front page for this non-story was ostensibly journalism, in practice a non-declarable donation of election publicity that would have cost them tens of thousands to buy themselves, and which would have broken electoral funding rules.

Secondly, and most sinister, the addresses of all the opposition candidates were published - on the front page of the main local daily. The "devastated" ZAPU and ZANU politicos were also standing, but their addresses weren't published. The addresses of all candidates are public, but are rarely splashed (in a negative story) over the front page. It looked as if the intention was two-fold - to remind opposition candidates that "we know where you live - and so, now, does everyone else", and to make it easier for ZANU's politically motivated thugs to attack them.

The editor of the Herald may be a despicable dirtbag, but he's a paid hireling of the government. We in Britain should be thankful for our free press, the tool of no political party - and should be both grateful that this doesn't happen here - and vigilant to ensure that it never does.




zzzzzzz .....

... I say ! Where am I ?

Gosh. I've just had the strangest dream ... sorry, I'm still half asleep ... all about Zimbabwe and the elections ... whatever made me dream that ? ...

Oh Lordy. I've just remembered. I wasn't in Harare. I was in Swansea, this weekend.

And the paper with the front page story was the South Wales Evening Post.