Monday, July 28, 2014 Local time: 18:26

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Zimbabwe Watchdog Rebukes State Media for Political Bias

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Ntungamili Nkomo

A Zimbabwean watchdog has criticized the state media for continued bias against the MDC and lack of respect for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and other politicians outside President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, MMPZ, said on Monday that despite a provision in the unity government agreement compelling public newspapers and broadcasters to maintain balance, the outlets were still leaning towards Zanu PF.

"We express deep regret and concern over the state media's continued biased coverage about the activities of the MDC formations," said Edson Madondo, the watchdog's deputy coordinator for research and monitoring.

"This kind of coverage is giving the Zanu PF arm of government an unfair advantage over its coalition partners ahead of elections. We demand Mr. Mugabe and his unity partners to truly reform the state media institutions."

In many cases, Madondo said, newspapers such as the Herald, Sunday Mail, Sunday News and the Chronicle reported falsely about the MDC with the intention of harming the party, and never apologize when their reports are proven otherwise.

The latest case in point is a Herald report last Friday alleging Tsvangirai’s wife, Elizabeth Macheka had left the previous day for a shopping spree in South Africa and India to buy jewelry and other auxiliary accessories for their upcoming wedding.

But the story turned out to be false when Macheka showed up for a public event in Harare with Tsvangirai the same day the Herald said she was out of the country.

This forced the newspaper to publish a follow-up report Saturday saying the shopping trip had been canceled at the last minute. It did not explain why. On Monday the paper ran another story saying Macheka had missed her flight.

The watchdog says there are several other examples where state media, particularly the Herald and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation have deliberately attempted to falsely portray the MDC in a bad light.

The Global Political Agreement, which underpins power-sharing between Zanu PF and the MDC, requires state media to be fair to all parties. But observers say the bias towards Zanu PF that existed before the coalition arrangement has not gone away.

The Media Monitoring Project says the ZBC and Zimpapers boards should be disbanded to address the situation.

Spokesman Douglas Mwonzora of the Tsvangirai MDC told VOA instead of reducing the inflammatory and hate language in line with the unity accord, the state media has doubled down.

"The Global Political Agreement makes it clear that all hate language must be eliminated," Mwonzora said, "but we have seen an intensification from the ZBC and the Herald newspaper."

His sentiments were echoed by Nhlanhla Dube, spokesman for the MDC wing headed by Welshman Ncube, who added that while he agrees the state media is biased, the private media is also at fault.

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