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Mugabe maintains media grip

Zimbabwe's state broadcaster maintains steady stream of TV and radio propaganda.

“I think it sheds light on the present power structure of the unity government if the prime minister invites me for a personal meeting and his office is not in a position to clear my entrance to the country,” Novak told reporters on his arrival back in Johannesburg. “That is a very alarming signal about the power structure of the present government.”

Among Tsvangirai’s other complaints are selective application of the law, politicization of the armed forces, and ongoing land seizures.

Mugabe blames the West for Zimbabwe’s economic decline.

“People voted with their stomachs,” his apologists insist, as if voters were expected to ignore dire social conditions.

The conditions of the power-sharing government call for “fair and balanced” coverage of events and the unimpeded return of Zimbabwean journalists in the diaspora. Mugabe has complained bitterly that externally-based radio stations, which he calls “pirate” stations, are transmitting hate-speech into Zimbabwe.

In fact, what they are doing is setting the record straight and contradicting the pernicious propaganda of the official broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which is as partisan as it is unprofessional.

Ten years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the ZBC’s transmissions monopoly. Independent broadcasters subsequently set up a private station. Following a police raid most fled abroad.

Minister of Information Webster Shamu, a former broadcaster himself, has studiously avoided guaranteeing the safety of returning journalists who were threatened with arrest by his predecessor if they returned to Zimbabwe. Nor has he felt inclined to issue licenses for new publications.

It is clear Zanu-PF is clinging on to its broadcasting domain because it sees control of the airwaves as an essential weapon in any forthcoming election — despite its facile mantras on independence and sovereignty finding no purchase on the public mind in last year’s poll. People can see the words “USAID” clearly branded on the maize bags Mugabe claims are his gift to the nation. That is a reality that needs no explanation.

Meanwhile, Mugabe’s propaganda machine is ratcheting up the pressure on the MDC.

“Let the law take its course,” an editorialist in the state-run Herald newspaper wrote this month.

“We cannot allow situations where total disregard for cases takes precedence so that we gratify a small constituency of Westerners who we all know are only making a noise because their kith and kin (Bennett) has to undergo trial.”

“They are lying,” township resident Shadreck Munyoro declared. “They only mention the rule of law when it suits them.”

Whatever the case, with each passing day, bringing its now familiar diet of abductions and assaults, Tsvangirai’s position out of power becomes more precarious than ever.