One of the most important rules of photojournalism is to get your shot from the front and as close up as possible to the subject. The Sunday Mail provided a classic example of how not to do it by publishing a picture last weekend of three people on a golf course taken several metres back.
It was impossible to tell who they were or indeed that they were golfers.
The point of the picture was to work up nationalist indignation that Morgan Tsvangirai could be playing golf while “thousands of Zimbabweans were at the National Heroes Acre laying to rest veteran nationalist Senator Mishek Chando”.
Leaving aside for a minute the obvious point that the public no longer buy Zanu PF’s brand of stale nationalist fervour, would any party leader want to attend an event where the president castigates him and his followers?
Zanu PF has transformed national functions into party-political rallies, witness the posters held aloft at last Saturday’s event. It would in the circumstances have been difficult to justify Tsvangirai’s attendance.
This was not a national event, whatever its claims to be one. And if attendance was so important, where was Grace Mugabe? Muckraker understands that she was in Hong Kong.
Munyaradzi Huni’s accompanying piece contained all the lies and threats we have come to expect from a suborned “public” media. It is good to know that the MDC has put this sort of rabble-rousing on its list of outstanding issues. Zanu PF continues to bleat about sanctions. But what have they done to change their ways? Why should anybody lift sanctions against them when they are refusing to lift their sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe? Abductions and beatings are once again being reported across the country.
Charges of hypocrisy are being levelled against the West for recognising Hamid Karzai as Afghan ruler after his opponent pulled out.
Is this really hypocrisy? The EU and US have brought to international attention the shortcomings in the electoral process in Afghanistan, saying they couldn’t recognise the outcome of the first round in the circumstances. And they admit to the dilemma of an unsatisfactory outcome in the run-off. But while there was evidence of fraud, there was no evidence of abductions or lawyers being arrested. Whatever its manifest shortcomings, Afghanistan is a nation struggling to adhere to democratic norms, not a rogue state that metes out the sort of treatment Jestina Mukoko had to endure. Nor does Afghanistan have a media that tries to justify fraud and violence, nor does it turn away UN officials investigating torture. Is this what Sikhanyiso Ndlovu calls “sovereign rights”?
Another “sovereign rights” exponent, Tafataona Mahoso, writing in the Sunday Mail last weekend said Prof Welshman Ncube and corporate executives “had long been aware of the claim (US ambassador Christopher) Dell and the Centre for Global Development (CGD in Washington) made in 2005 that the economic crisis precipitated by the regime-change onslaught on Zimbabwe in opposition to land redistribution brought the living conditions of the majority of the people back to 1953 levels within the six year period from 2000 to 2005”.
Dell of course said nothing of the sort. He cited the CGD as saying Mugabe’s policies had plunged living conditions back to the levels of 1953.
Not quite the same thing is it? But that’s the sort of manipulation we have to put up with when the “public” media remains in the arthritic hands of Zanu PF’s publicists.
Let’s remind ourselves that the party that lost the elections last year continues to maintain its stranglehold on the public media so it can “explain” to the people how they were the victims of an Anglo-American conspiracy. It won’t even allow the winning party the right of reply.
Losers such as Mahoso, not content with misleading Sunday Mail readers as to what a former US ambassador actually said, has been making scarcely veiled attacks on our forthcoming publication, NewsDay.
He was asked on the partisan Media Watch programme whether it was legal for other newspapers to carry inserts of NewsDay before it was registered.
This is what Mahoso had to say: “Well, I wouldn’t want to speculate. What I can recommend to viewers is that they should go back to the year 2002 this time…October (or) November 2002 and read what the Daily News was saying about media law and how to go around defeating media laws, violating media laws. I believe we are in a similar climate right now and some people are going to get hurt if they play around with media laws.”
The publishers of NewsDay have been scrupulous — some would say too scrupulous — about bringing out their new daily. They are observing the law every step of the way. Yet here is Mahoso, with evidently far fewer scruples, threatening them.
People are “going to get hurt” are they? It was useful to have those remarks on the record ahead of the Maputo summit.
By what authority does the malevolent Mahoso speak on this matter? What position does he hold in the media hierarchy apart from his claims to expertise at an interview that didn’t go too well a couple of months ago?
Perhaps Minister Webster Shamu can explain. Is Mahoso Zanu PF’s spokesman on media reform?
And what should we make of journalists inciting officials to take action against their colleagues? We thought editors agreed at the Unesco round table that such behaviour was unacceptable. And then they squeal about sanctions!
How in the circumstances Mugabe could tell reporters at Harare airport on his way to Uganda recently that all outstanding issues had been addressed defies logic. At least the Sadc troika pointed out that there were still issues to be resolved, something Zanu PF is in denial about. Slowly their story about Joseph Kabila paying a “reciprocal visit” to Mugabe had to be re-spun as a GPA review visit as the original line began to sink under the weight of its own contradictions.
We expected the Sadc troika visit to be accompanied by pleas to lift sanctions and for “pirate” radio stations to be closed. But as the MDC-T pointed out in their submission, all that was needed was for Zanu PF to fulfil the GPA requirement for external broadcasters to be readmitted and registered.
Which part of “readmitted and registered” don’t they understand?
Then we had claims that during his tour of the region to explain the breakdown of the GNU, Tsvangirai had only been given a few minutes here and there by heads of state.
So who was feeding these lies to the gullible state media? Somebody who wasn’t even there, we gather.
We are pleased to note that this deceitful “source” has himself been tabled as an outstanding issue which is where he belongs.
Meanwhile, has anybody managed to point out to General Constantine Chiwenga that the B52 was an American bomber used in the Vietnam war, not a “fighter plane”? He made the remarks last Friday when paying tribute to Senator Chando.
We are surprised Air-Vice Marshall Henry Muchena didn’t correct him on this point!
It was amusing to witness the wriggling that went on last week over the expulsion of UN official Manfred Nowak. Ministers couldn’t see him because they were too busy with the Sadc troika mission, we were told.
So Zimbabwean ministers can’t do more than one thing a day? And when they next complain against Western attempts to damage the country’s reputation, will they consider this episode? Nowak was prevented from entering the country even though Tsvangirai had said he would host the visiting UN rapporteur on torture.
Nowak summed it up rather neatly when he arrived back in Johannesburg.
“I think it sheds light on the present power structure of the unity government,” he said, “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.”
Nowak said he had never been treated so rudely by any government and would recommend that the UN Human Rights Council take action against Zimbabwe.
Another own goal. Well done lads! But where was the MDC in all this? Shouldn’t Tsvangirai have been at the airport to be filmed trying to receive Nowak? And then slamming Nowak’s detention as a gross infringement of the PM’s authority, and thereby the authority of the GNU as a whole? This was a photo-opportunity begging to happen.
The MDC, it must be said, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity!
By the way, has anybody noticed how the Sadc Pretoria communiqué of January 27 requiring the parties to resolve the Gono/Tomana dispute has become a mere “press statement” which doesn’t have to be fulfilled beyond Mugabe’s statement that the appointments are “irreversible”?
A letter to the Herald’s editor from a suspicious character styling himself “Patriotic Observer”, occupying the spot usually reserved for Munhumutapa concoctions, was on Monday attacking “scandalous claims” in the Standard regarding the GPA. He attempted to lay down the new line that Zanu PF cannot be expected to uphold a mere “press statement” and that therefore there will be no change in its stance.
All very revealing! And thanks to Prof Arthur Mutambara for this unambiguous statement: “Zimbabweans do not deserve to continue to be punished with biased media. The people deserve plurality and diversity. What is happening is poisonous and uncalled for.”
Just as bad is the uniformity imposed on state-media journalists who are obliged to refer to sanctions as “illegal” and to Nowak’s visit as “gate-crashing” — not just once or twice but every time they mention it.
What does that tell us about political manipulation of a captive press?
And please tell us that rumours of fake interviews with Zanu PF luminaries are not true. Question and answer sessions are written by the same person, we are told, the interviewee, not the interviewer. Surely not!
Zanu PF has been complaining about the cost of certain reforms such as constitutional reform and the land audit. But how much does it cost to liberate the media? Reform in this sector would take the form of investment as new players come in. Above all it would enable Zimbabweans to make an informed choice on constitutional and electoral matters which they are currently denied.
Meanwhile, what has happened to the Zimbabwe Media Commission, nominations for which were submitted to the president weeks ago? Why is there no movement there? The sound of foot-dragging is deafening.
Could Henry Muradzikwa please clarify matters for us?