Harare – African journalists are “stuck in a rut” of writing negative stories and should concentrate on positive things like football, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is reported to have said.
The 91-year-old president, who has just disproved press rumours that he had collapsed while on holiday in the Far East, said reporters should concentrate on “good things”, according to Zimbabwe state media.
The official Sunday Mail quoted Mugabe as saying: “Of course we feel that our journalists should report us better than they have been doing all along.”
He was speaking after a meeting with close ally Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea in Harare on Saturday. Both leaders have been in power in their respective countries for more than 35 years.
“Report the good things that Africa is doing. There are many positives, including football,” the Zimbabwe leader was quoted as saying.
Zimbabwe’s soccer prowess did not appear to be such a good story this weekend, with the Sunday Mail reporting that the national team – the Warriors – had crashed out of the African Nations Championships after a string of “miss[ed]chances” .
State media and Mugabe’s supporters are unhappy with critical reporting from the local private press and foreign media on the Zimbabwe president and his more controversial policies, including the land reform programme and the drive towards company indigenisation.
The Sunday Mail appeared to be taking Mugabe’s call for positive press coverage to heart by publishing a glowing appraisal admittedly not of the national soccer team but of the Zimbabwe president himself.
Mugabe “is the epitome of principle, boldness, gallantry, endurance and most importantly African pride”, the newspaper said in its lead editorial.
“We need not tell you how this honourable son of Africa has steered the ship towards industrialisation,” the editorial continued.
The piece provoked a storm of sarcasm on Twitter, with one Zimbabwean tweeting: “Shouldn’t it read has steered ship towards deindustrialisation?”
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmaker Jessie Majome retorted: “If that’s what African pride is then give me humility!”
Local media watchdog @ZimMediaReview said that the latest edition of the Sunday Mail was “a collector’s item for all those who collect samples of the world’s best boot-licking journalism.”
The state ZBC broadcaster reported meanwhile that Mugabe had seen off his Equatorial Guinean counterpart at the airport on Sunday afternoon.-N24