ZANU PF has stepped up its propaganda blitz, roping in regional media publications to bolster its campaign against what it perceives as negative pu
blicity and to convince the Sadc region that its policies are working.
Sources privy to the initiative said the ruling party has hatched a plan to bring into the country scribes of publications and broadcasting stations from friendly countries and convince them to write positive stories.
The move is set to spruce up the government’s image and counter an array of Western-based websites perceived to be pushing for regime change in Zimbabwe.
The plan has already been taken to Malawi, where eight journalists from the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), TVM and the Information department have been invited to record programmes on the “Zimbabwe situation”.
“Journalists from MBC and TVM and the Information department officials were in Zimbabwe two weeks ago,” a source in Malawi said. “They were in Zimbabwe to just record programmes on the situation and learn about election reporting.”
The sources said government, through the department of information, was on a drive to invite as many “friendly” countries as possible to promote positive coverage of its policies.
Government has been struggling to counter what it terms “negative publicity” by Western media organisations. Among a cocktail of strategies to counter the bad news has been the setting up of a short-wave propaganda radio station, Voice of Zimbabwe , to operate from Gweru.
However, the project appears to have suffered a stillbirth amid reports of self-jamming as a result of gagging equipment installed to block broadcasts from foreign radio stations such as Voice of America’s Studio 7. The project has also been unpopular with state media journalists.
Government has also splurged over US$1 million in an image-making campaign with New African magazine which has resorted to publishing propaganda supplements.
Zanu PF secretary for science and technology, Olivia Muchena, on July 26 presented a report to Zanu PF’s central committee on the role and importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs), arguing that the ruling party had no choice but to embrace ICTs to remain “politically relevant”.
“Comrades, we are all aware that Zanu PF is at war from within and outside our borders,” said the report. “Contrary to the gun battles we are accustomed to, we now have cyber-warfares fought from one’s comfort zone, be it bedroom, office, swimming pool, etc but with deadly effects.”
Muchena said Zanu PF must pause and think who is behind the creation of “these websites”, the target market, the influence and impact they have on Zimbabweans and what the image of Zanu PF and its leadership looks like “out there as portrayed”.
Muchena said websites, the Internet and cellphones had become daily weapons used to fight Zanu PF, adding that ICTs were now vogue platforms for high-tech espionage — hardware, software and infrastructure that peddles “virulent propaganda” to delegitimise “our just struggle against Anglo-Saxons”.
President Mugabe recently signed into law the Interception of Communications Act, which empowers government to snoop on messages transmitted through the telecommunication system, cellphones and the Internet.