I was watching tv last night and the host of the discussion programme asked whether the Democratic Party in the USA was owned by MoveOn.org. It got me thinking about the aftermath of yesterday’s rally (The Herald is correct I think – it wasn’t a prayer meeting) which was disrupted by the ZRP in Highfields in Harare.
The media in Zimbabwe is owned and operated by the Mugabe regime. So Sunday’s aftermath, aka how the events are being portrayed, is in the hands of the State. Zimbabweans, since last night, are being force fed a diet of MDC thuggery, non-attendance and opposition violence.
This makes me wonder when the pro-democracy movement will get its act together in terms of creating its own robust media and information response unit.
The majority of Zimbabweans don’t get satellite tv so Zimbabwe’s prominence on the BBC last night is neither here nor there for those who want to get the real story. It’s also unlikely that the SABC would provide an unbiased portrayal of events given their track record of unquestioning support for the Mugabe government. The only (so-called) independent newspapers in Zimbabwe will be published at the end of the week, and as we know, just a few hours in politics is a long time, let alone a whole week. In the meantime the State media will endeavor to reinforce their side of the story.
Where does that leave us?
Well, there are a few options (that is if the Save Zimbabwe Campaign took communications seriously):
- The organisers of the rally should have had their media support team in action on Sunday writing first hand accounts of the situation (unembellished) and getting, where possible, photographs and footage
- Sunday night and Monday should have seen the MDC and NCA (aka Save Zimbabwe Campaign) printing presses working overtime using the material gathered by the media support team
- Leaflets and street tabloids detailing what really happened should be landing on the streets of Harare on Tuesday morning
- Posters denouncing the state’s ban on public gatherings should have been pre-printed and plastered around Harare in the early hours of Monday morning
- If there really were church groups involved in the organising of Sunday’s rally, prayer meetings in churches throughout the city should be organised for Monday night in solidarity with those who are detained and injured
- Large scale SMS campaigns should be engaged to keep people informed
- A press conference should be organised in readiness for Tsvangirai’s (and others’) release from prison
Highfield was a very localised event. Many Zimbabweans weren’t there and want to know more; they want the facts.
Who is going to provide them?