Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The BBC, Zimbabwe and some disturbing reporting



Am I alone in finding the language of the BBC's John Simpson, filing from Harare, disturbing?

Here's what he had to say:

Morgan Tsvangirai, has been completely outmanoeuvred.

And on the BBC's website they report that Mr Simpson added:

that Mr Mugabe is on course for a remarkable victory, when only three months ago he seemed to be on the ropes.

But Mr Tsvangirai has not, in any sense, been outmanoeuvred. He has been bludgeoned out of the race. And Mr Mugabe's prospective "victory" shouldn't be seen as remotely "remarkable". It isn't a victory - because it isn't a free election, it is a charade - and it isn't remarkable since it was always open to Mugabe to use violence rather than democracy.

By reporting as if the events of the last fortnight represented chess moves in a game of election strategy rather than a fascist carrying out a campaign of mass murder, Mr Simpson is framing the events as Zanu PF would like him to frame them.

I think it is time someone in the BBC had a word with him.

UPDATE: When preparing the above post I was using a BBC story which folded in John Simpson's view. Now I have had a chance to read his entire piece. And it is even more extraordinary. Here is how he finishes:

The moral is clear: never underestimate Robert Mugabe's ferocious determination to stay in power, nor the ability of his political opponents to destroy their own case.

What on earth does he mean? In what way have Mr Mugabe's opponents destroyed their case? What a repulsive thing to say.

Earlier in his piece he calls a piece of dark propaganda "well-made". He seems to think Mugabe has been very clever. He hasn't been. He is a murdering thug.

I am not normally someone who fulminates about the BBC. I admire much of its journalism. But this sort of smug reporting of Mugabe's genius is nauseating and a bizarre misunderstanding of the situation

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