The role of the media in an election cycle cannot be overemphasised. The call to the media to cover election issues objectively, as enshrined in the Constitution, has been articulated many times, but one finds that there are some in the Fourth Estate who want to score cheap points through sensational reporting.
We note with grave concern how some private media outlets, for reasons best known to themselves, want to give an impression of instability in Zimbabwe.
After reading the NewsDay’s lead story on Wednesday, headlined “Polls: US issues travel alert”, it was natural to ask why they were happy to amplify the American position on events in Zimbabwe, even if they do not reflect reality on the ground?
Why did they want to paint a picture that Zimbabwe is an unstable and insecure country?
Why cause alarm and despondency among the Zimbabweans, and more critically, why repeat untruths when accolades are made about the prevailing peace and tranquillity?
We were equally surprised when the Wednesday story was followed up with an editorial piece in Thursday’s edition of the same newspaper: “US travel warnings an indictment on Mnangagwa”.
How do US policies on Zimbabwe become an indictment on President Mnangagwa’s administration?
While we know why the US might have issued the travel advisory on July 2, a few weeks before the July 30 harmonised elections, what is the NewsDay’s motive in amplifying this message?
Have they become a publicity arm of the United States Public Affairs Department, and are they aware of the ripple effects of their stories?
Wrote the NewsDay: “In the travel advisory titled ‘2018 Zimbabwe — Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution’ issued on Monday, the US said violent crime such as assault, carjacking; home invasion as well as smashing of car windows with the intent to steal were common in Zimbabwe. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”
It is sad to note how a media house operating in a peaceful environment would want to preach negative information about its own country.
It is clear testimony that they are prisoners of the past where they believed that writing anti-Government and anti-Zanu-PF issues would endear them to the West.
One cannot help see the double standards in the travel advisory, considering that the United States’ 14th envoy since 1980, Mr Brian Nichols, will be here any time from now.
If Zimbabwe was an unsafe destination, they would not be sending him. The US would also not be constructing one of the biggest embassies in the southern African region in Harare.
Surely, the White City Stadium bombing in Bulawayo targeting President Mnangagwa’s life cannot be the reason behind Monday’s travel advisory, for the US was among members of the international community who condemned the act soon after it happened. In their statement they said, “The US Embassy in Harare condemns the attack at the Zanu-PF rally in Bulawayo this afternoon. Political violence in any form is unacceptable and contrary to the positive progress required to move Zimbabwe forward as it seeks to take its place on the global stage . . .”
Since June 23, Zimbabwe has not experienced anything untoward to warrant such an alert. It would be interesting to see who will pass the test if we were to do a comparison on safety levels between Zimbabwe and the United States. What are the crime statistics like between the two countries?
There is also no country in the world that has a perfect score on the risk indicators used to issue travel alerts, namely crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health, natural disasters, among others.
We therefore concur with sentiments raised by political analyst Alexander Rusero who told the NewsDay: “The travel advisory is misguided and misplaced; it works against the spirit of Commonwealth of Nations where Zimbabwe is trying to reintegrate itself in a global community.”
Rusero was also on point when he alluded to the irony and double standards in the United States’ travel advisory: “It shows America has not shifted an inch since Mnangagwa took over. It is still guided by the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, the foreign policy pronouncement of 2001.”
And reading the editorial, it was evident the NewsDay was using the advisory alert as an excuse to fight Government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in the opposition’s corner since they rubbished the engagement and re-engagement processes currently underway.
“It’s one thing for (President) Mnangagwa to carry on a charm offensive to convince the world of changed circumstances back home, and it is another to walk the talk . . . We believe Mnangagwa can still serve the situation if he impresses on ZEC to stick to its mandate to allow the electorate to give him an untainted mandate suppose he’s the best presidential candidate.”
When all is said and done, we think that this could also be a public relations exercise, considering the damning report from USAID on some pro-opposition non-governmental organisations.
But, this will not stop the re-engagement.