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Harare Said To Launch Propaganda Campaign To Counter Protests

Zimbabwe’s Joint Operations Command, which coordinates the action of the police, the Central Intelligence Organization and the army, has launched a propaganda blitz in hopes of undermining the opposition and defusing social unrest, sources said.

Intelligence sources said police and CIO agents would direct the campaign using state media and other information channels. The CIO was said to be distributing fliers with logos of opposition or labor organizations like the Movement for Democratic Change, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and Women of Zimbabwe Arise.

Spokespeople for all of those organizations said the fliers are fraudulent.

The sources said the fliers purported to urge opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to tell the United States and the European Union, which have imposed sanctions on the Mugabe government and associates, to lift them or risk another rift in his party. The Movement for Democratic Change split into two factions in late 2005.

Some fliers charged that MDC youth have been paid Z$10,000 to demonstrate against the government. The Daily Mirror newspaper, reportedly CIO-controlled, reported on Tuesday that the opposition party is paying protesters Z$90,000 to protest.

Senior Analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group in South Africa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the campaign reflects the government’s desire to stem a tide of popular opinion that is running against it.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...