Media Fiasco on Zimbabwe

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By Hopewell Chingono in London

The current land invasions in Zimbabwe's white owned farms have been seized upon by the western media and used as a tool to demonise the Zimbabwean authorities. Unlike the Zimbabwean press, the British press did not have a difficult course to steer between politics of governing Zimbabwe and the genuine long standing legitimate need to reach equitable land balances.

The English journalists have been clear on what they considered to be the 'sexy' aspects of news in their reports.

The land invasions have been reported without the British press taking an emphasis on the positive role of the media in promoting a fairer society by attacking land discrimination and inequalities based on racial backgrounds.

It is interesting to note that families of farmers killed in the struggle for the land during the farm invasions were paraded for photo shoots, but the reverse not being the case during the liberation struggle when Ian Smith's soldiers murdered and maimed black supporters of the Patriotic Front.

There will never be a case for defending the current political violence in Zimbabwe but every journalist should take the circumstances into context.

Good journalism has ceased to be only the art of locating news and reporting it accurately, it now involves analysis and understanding the meaning behind what is being reported. Journalists must report in a way that unravel a story and reveal its significance to the people in that story.In the current farm invasions and political turbulence more black people have died but only the deaths of white farmers make front-page news.

During the early phase of the farm invasions, over 1000 people died in the worst murder case in living memory involving a church sect in Uganda, however the death of a white farmer in Zimbabwe killed that story in the English press.

This is blatant racism, the Ugandans are indirectly classified as unpeople so too are the 5 million land less black Zimbabweans.

This is also evident in the western media's failure to report and inform its readers on the background of the land struggles in Zimbabwe.

How can a person in his right state of mind publish a story saying ROBERT MUGABE STEALS WHITE PEOPLE'S LAND?

This only confirms the fact that the technological advances in satellite television and Internet have not changed the content of news organisations as respected Australian journalist, John Pilger puts it rightly when he says technological determinism has replaced something called economic determinism.

What is at stake for Zimbabweans, black Zimbabweans is their right to their land.

It is not a secret that the British government has in the past refused to fulfil their colonial obligations as agreed at the Lancaster House Conference.

The British Secretary for International Development Claire Short wrote a letter to the Zimbabwean government saying the current British Labour government had no links to British colonialism and colonial past and was therefore not obliged to help pay for any land programmes in Zimbabwe.

Instead of building bridges with the Zimbabwean people the British government has in many ways than one planted seeds of conflict which surprisingly some sections of the local press seem to nurture.

The local press should strive for objectivity, competence and professionalism and high light the social ills that were planted by the colonial system and stood as a burden for the ordinary black person in this country. There is a clear distinction between being independent and being anti-government or racist. The media must be both thorough and ask searching questions based on facts not race, coupled with the ability to separate the message from the messenger.

The local media in this country has failed to stop and reflect on these inadequacies, instead of provoking change, the Zimbabwean media has spent more time grappling with politics of hate and in that process lost the story of ordinary lives involved.

The Constitutional referendum was billed as the Land referendum in the British press and in that respect the important facts were distorted.

It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that the opposition parties would have gained more from a YES vote through the abolition of the 30 Presidential seats. However, there was a press orgy of misinformation on the so-called increased Presidential powers by ignorant journalist who write stories before they do proper research.

The level of ignorance shocked me when I asked a very prominent Zimbabwean journalist to explain what was wrong with the separation of Executive powers in the constitutional draft.

The guy had not read the document and yet he had written loads of stories criticising the document. I am not saying it was not flawed, I am talking about gutter and cancerous journalism that seems to have been entrenched in our local media.

I just hope Zimbabwe's 'unpeople' will show an eloquent defiance and courage in their fight for equality and the right to control their destiny.

With everything said, things can only get better.

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