Saturday, March 24, 2007

Zimbabwe: Lies, lies, damn lies: British media exposed

Zimbabwe: Lies, lies, damn lies: British media exposed
Posted: Friday, March 23, 2007

By Peter Mavunga
March 23, 2007

The British media has turned peddling lies about Zimbabwe into a fine art. That they hate the country's leadership with a vengeance is well known. What is questionable is their orchestrated campaign based on twisted facts, lies and damn lies to suit their own ends. I take ITV's main evening news story a fortnight ago as a tiny but interesting example. The bulletin was dominated by an "exclusive" by Martin Geisler who purported to have entered the country to report under cover despite the current ban on British journalists in Zimbabwe.

He entered the country clandestinely to report a demonstration in Harare against the Zimbabwe Government's alleged poor human rights record and the country's deteriorating economic conditions.

What is interesting is that the report gives the impression that the demonstration that was the subject of his report was only one of many that are taking place everyday throughout the country. He also does what he can to create the impression that Zimbabwe is a police state where people are not free.

For dramatic effect, the reporter lowers his voice as he tells his viewers during a car ride that he is en route to a secret hideout where some of the protesters who he intends to interview are waiting for him.

Television viewers are shown a handful of protesters who were never the less portrayed as "the whole country" rising up against the Government.

Views are told these protesters, who have "nothing to lose" in Mugabe's Zimbabwe, have decided: "Enough is enough" and are now prepared to stop at nothing to bring about change. Indeed we are shown a man taking a piece of concrete from the ground which he lifts up and drops in front of him on the tarmac.

To us viewers, this is hardly the actions of a nation in revolt. It is very small beer compared to the poll tax riots we witnessed in the dying days of Mrs Thatcher's government.

But the ITV news report wants us to believe a revolution is in the making. And the reporter chooses his interviewees very carefully to convey his message.

"You think I am alive?" one so-called protester asks him rhetorically. "I am already dead."

This is ITV's idea of objective reporting. It is meant to support the contention that the people of Zimbabwe are so oppressed that they feel they are already dead or that they feel they have nothing to live for and that violence to achieve change is the only viable solution to their plight.

The general impression given is that Zimbabweans are now very angry about their country that they see disintegrating before their eyes owing to an economic meltdown with 1 700 percent inflation and no infrastructure to talk about and they see violence as the only answer.

So central is this report to ITV's news schedule that it is reported twice on Thursday 1 March 2007, first in the early evening bulletin at 6 o'clock, then again in the main evening news at 10.30pm. It is a clever piece of British propaganda reported without any reference to when the demonstration took place.

Instead, the reporter tells his viewers "these protests are happening everyday" and he seems to enjoy the bit when he adds that all the people of Zimbabwe including the police, the army and all — are fed up.

The truth is that the demonstration had occurred a week earlier specifically to coincide with certain events taking place in Western capitals. To have reported it as a single, isolated event would not have fitted into the British grand design. It had to be presented as an everyday occurrence even though it was patently untrue.

What was also curious was the fact that the few people who spoke to the reporter, including Henry Olonga, did so in full view of the camera without attempting to hide their identity. Not that I did not want to see their faces. I was just confused that the reporter had earlier lowered his voice when talking about his secret rendezvous with the people concerned leaving the impression this was all done hush hush.

It was of course all acting, designed to create an impression of impending danger both to himself and to the people he was going to meet. The fact that these protesters were happy to be interviewed on record suggests it was the reporter's ploy to create the impression that Zimbabwe was a dangerous place to be where, as he put it: "you always feel you are being watched and you never know who is behind you."

Another contributor to Giesler's report was Fred Muleya, now based in the UK. He was eager to confirm what his interviewer wanted to hear.

An example of this was Giesler's leading question enquiring if Muleya did not believe such demonstrations were likely to get bigger? The interviewer sounded a trifle disappointed that the crowd of protesters was not larger but he needed not worry.

Muleya was only too pleased to confirm that in his view the people of Zimbabwe had had enough and it was his hope and belief that these protests "will get bigger".

This prime time news UK style is a lot of twaddle in my book both in presentation and content. Yet for the innocent eyes and ears of the British public who are bombarded with such anti-Zimbabwe material everyday, it must have been very difficult to disbelieve such a report presented as it was in all seriousness by an experienced journalist through one of the main news channels in the land.

Demonstrations such as was reported on 1 March do not happen everyday in Zimbabwe. I know because if they did they would be reported everyday. I keep a close eye on these things.

When I visited the country for three to four weeks at a time as I sometimes do, I did not witness these demonstrations taking place everyday.

Only in November 2006, my friends were visiting the country and they came back to report no such demonstrations taking place on a daily basis. My own family were in Harare from the end of December to mid January this year but they too reported no demonstrations taking place on a daily basis. In compiling this article, I spoke to a number of people in Zimbabwe who knew nothing of demonstrations taking place everyday as Giesler would want us to believe.

It is clear therefore that the ITV's main report on March 1 was a pack of twisted facts, very misleading in the extreme. The demonstration and biased reporting that went with it were two sides of an orchestrated campaign with twin objectives.

First, it was to perpetuate the propaganda against the government of Zimbabwe for committing the cardinal sin of attempting to tackle the unequal land distribution created by the minority settler regime.

Secondly and more to the point, these were part of an annual ritual designed to facilitate the extension of sanctions against Zimbabwe. The demonstration this year, as was a similar one last year, was orchestrated as a means to provide the IMF and the European Union with the evidence to justify continuing their sanctions against Zimbabwe.

They needed fresh evidence that things were bad in Zimbabwe. Television images of protesters in the streets, however contrived, did the trick and Western governments needed nothing else to help them decide to extend or not to extend the sanctions.

And decide they did. My point is that their decision was based on lies, damn lies that stank to the core.


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