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GOVERNMENT, media and political analysts have rapped the Daily News’ practice of passing opinion as news, saying the habit left readers wondering whether the paper was now The Daily Quiz or the Daily News.

This followed the paper’s decision to lead with an opinion piece yesterday under the headline, “Is Mugabe still fit to rule Zim?” which had a collage of President Mugabe tripping on a poorly laid out carpet at the Harare International Airport.

The paper put that incident down to President Mugabe’s age and alleged failing health despite the fact that President Mugabe showed amazing agility in breaking the fall and walking away unscathed.

The Daily News opinion piece is despite the fact that it is only 19 months since President Mugabe was given a resounding, five-year mandate by millions of Zimbabweans in the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections where he routed MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai with 61,09 percent of the vote to 33,94 percent.

Analysts said it was ironic that the Daily News decided to question President Mugabe’s leadership of the country barely three months after African leaders found it fit to elect him chairperson of the African Union, a development that came hot on the heels of his assumption of the chair of Sadc.

In fact, following his resounding victory in 2013, President Mugabe has been on the ascendancy as he was elected deputy chairman of Sadc in August 2013, AU first deputy chairperson in January 2014, Sadc chairman in August 2014 and AU chairman in January this year.

At home the Zanu-PF led Government, under President Mugabe’s watch, has remained focused on economic revival and normalising relations with bilateral and multi-lateral partners culminating in President Mugabe’s highly successful 13th State visit to China last year during which multi-million dollar infrastructure mega deals were signed between Zimbabwe and China.

Several delegations from the West have also visited Zimbabwe and the UK minister of international development is expected in Harare in the coming weeks.

The Daily News, the analysts said, appeared to be on auto-pilot, if it is not calling other paper’s names it is asking readers questions.

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo said it was shocking that a mainstream paper could lead with a question mark.

“It is surprising that a mainstream newspaper leads with a question mark when it is expected to lead with a story. You cannot ask yourself a question in order to give a self-fulfilling answer.

“The majority of Zimbabweans are not expecting questions, they want answers not to political questions, but to the economic challenges that they are facing. Anyone with a political question we are going to meet them in 2018, then they will get their answer.

“Till then we are pre-occupied with bread and butter issues. We do not understand if it is The Daily Quiz or the Daily News. Which is which?

“Our answer, however, is yes President Mugabe is fit to lead Zimbabwe. An overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans said Yes only 19 months ago,” Prof Moyo said.

Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Information Science at the National University of Science Education Dr Lawton Hikwa concurred.

“Behind that particular kind of emotional arousing of its readership, there is an intention that is informed by some political persuasion that is obviously anti-Mugabe and they would use anything that denigrates him,” Dr Hikwa said.

“It is unfair for them (Daily News) to imply that because he is old, he is now incapable because we are yet to see that. No one denies that he is an elderly statesman but he has proved himself to be capable not just at local level but at regional and continental levels. He was elected recently by the majority of Zimbabweans, so he is legitimately representing the majority of the electorate of this country.”

A Midlands State University media lecturer who requested anonymity said it was unfortunate that the private media in Zimbabwe did not appreciate their role in society.

“They should be there for checks and balances on the State on real things not imagined or fabricated. The Daily News’ major problem is that it pursues shallow propaganda hinged on attacking the person of Robert Mugabe even when unwarranted.

“President Mugabe was recently elected by the majority of Zimbabweans who knew that a leader should not be elected based on age, but their vision for the country because you can have a 40-year-old President who is not wise.

“One wonders the wisdom of the leadership at the Daily News who want to question the leadership of someone who was also elected by the regional and continental bodies to lead them,” said the analyst.

Head of the Mass Communication Department at the Harare Polytechnic, Mr Peter Banga weighed in saying the Daily News story was hollow in the sense that it was not based on facts.

“At the moment there are no key features or indicators that they can use to claim that President Mugabe is no longer fit to rule.

“Don’t forget that other nations are looking at us wondering what has happened to us because they are aware that the President was elected by the majority of Zimbabweans after seeing something special in him. Sadc and the African Union also saw that something special in him and also put him into office.

“It looks like there are other agendas and what Zimbabweans should be doing now is to look seriously who is pushing that ulterior motive,” said Mr Banga.

He said the credibility of newspapers hinged on writing factual and objective stories.

Zimbabwe has remained focused on normalising relations with multi-lateral agencies like the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and Department for International Development with British secretary for International Development, Mark Lowcock also expected in the coming weeks.

“All these things are happening under the President’s watch which makes one question how a paper that calls itself mainstream can ask readers such questions,” said an analyst.

For a story to be considered fair, five basic categories that provide an easy-to-remember formula: A+B+C+D+E = F (fairness) must be embraced: Accuracy + balance + completeness + detachment + ethics = fairness.

The Daily News opinion piece was lacking in fairness.

Source : The Herald