CNS: Cybercast News “Spin�

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[Op-Ed: Media]

The extent of hypocrisy in American news media can be astounding, even when knowing that it’s a society that places profit over people.

The degree of sophistication of wolves dressed in “news� clothing is very instructive.  Particularly regarding Western designs for Zimbabwe. Let us take note.

On January 17th, 2007 Cybercast News Service (CNS News) published an article centered on an event in which my program, the Social Action & Leadership School for Activists (SALSA) was involved. The article, “MLK Would Have Supported Zimbabwe's Mugabe, Activists Say� by Monisha Bansal is largely based on blatantly false and misleading information.  

See: (

While I also take issue with many misrepresentations regarding complexity and context of the situation in Zimbabwe, I will confine this response to the falsehoods perpetrated against SALSA, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), and myself.

Because I was called by CNS’ staff writer Bansal and interviewed over the phone about the event, it is hard to fathom how certain things were misrepresented.  The extent of the false and misleading information in the article is a patent violation of CNS’ claim to serve “as a news source for individuals, news organizations and broadcasters who put a higher premium on balance than spin�.  The article is so classic an example of “spin� that it could serve as such in any school of journalism.  The article is completely contrary to any “endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story and debunk popular, albeit incorrect, myths about cultural and policy issues�, another claim of CNS News.

Given the obvious political slant and bias of the article it is not hard to determine the motivations behind resorting to such falsehoods.  In short, I, SALSA and IPS were used as a straw man to demonize Zimbabwe’s leading party ZANU-PF and President Robert Mugabe.

Let’s begin with the title of the article, which implies I or someone else at IPS had asserted Martin Luther King would support President Mugabe. This was not something I ever said and I am certain no one else at IPS said such a thing since many of my colleagues respectfully disagree with my position on Zimbabwe. 

It’s worth noting that IPS as a whole never takes positions as an institution and any opinions belong only to the person involved.  I did say to Bansal that I believed Dr. King would have opposed the sanctions against Zimbabwe, which is a completely different assertion. 

The first false statement in the article is “The Social Action and Leadership School for Activists (SALSA) raised some eyebrows when it hosted a representative of President Robert Mugabe's government at its annual Martin Luther King Day event on Monday.� 

I explicitly told Bansal that SALSA was not the host of the program but that we were only helping to promote it. We were not even considered a co-sponsor. I told her that the program was hosted and organized by the Contee African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, where it was held. 

I even gave Bansal the name and phone number of the contact person in the church responsible for the event but she neglected to contact them. The falsification of this key fact is of course the fundamental basis that condemns the article. It seems I was an easier target than the church, given the successes of the broad and largely church-based anti-sanctions movement regarding Iraq, which had to fight against similarly irresponsible journalists who defined opposition to those sanctions as "support for Saddam Hussein".

A second statement that further perpetuates false information and also demonstrates the article’s bias was “SALSA, a project of the ‘progressive’ Institute for Policy Studies, hosts the event each year, focusing on ‘some aspect of social justice’ that they believe would embody the ideals of Dr. King.� 

Of course I never told the interviewer that SALSA hosts such an event each year because it is the church that does so. Her cute use of quotations around the word “progressive� seems to be a way of denigrating IPS. Because my personal analysis and convictions about Zimbabwe are not endorsed by IPS, nor shared by most of my colleagues, it is obvious that this article will grossly mislead its readers and will continue to do so as long as it appears on their website.

The third lie is the statement “Nefta Freeman, the organization’s director, told Cybercast News Service that this year’s keynote speaker, Zimbabwean Ambassador Machivanyika Mapuranga, ‘was the best person we could think of to talk about those kind of things.’�  Maybe that my first name is spelled incorrectly—it is Netfa—is an indication that the “journalist�, Bansal was not listening closely enough to what I was saying. 

Again, I did not organize the program—however this statement makes it appear as though I did and that I believed no other person except the Ambassador was the best to speak about Dr. King’s legacy of social justice. Furthermore, I am not “the organization’s director�.  I am the program director for SALSA.

No reflection on Ambassador Mapuranga, whom I respect for his knowledge but I can think of and personally know many people who can speak on such a topic. What I did say, but probably should have left to the event’s organizer, was that the organizer chose the Ambassador because he was the best person to give the public the perspective and analysis of ZANU PF and the Zimbabwe government. 

This of course this is a completely different and perfectly reasonable statement. Also, given the Ambassador’s academic and lecturing credentials, he was very appropriate for speaking on the event’s topic, Dr. King’s Impact on Africa. The topic of the event was not mentioned once in the CNS article. Because of the political stigma being attached to Zimbabwe, I can see no other objective for this falsehood than a veiled attempt to belittle my personal political character and understanding.

It is a lie when the article states the following: “‘The Land Reclamation Program in Zimbabwe...has bought land to over 250,000 indigenous families’, the Institute for Policy Studies said on its website.� While I do not dispute the veracity of this statement, it has never appeared on the IPS website. It had appeared as part of the wording of the promo for the event on SALSA’s website. Again, I remind the reader we did not organize it.

Lastly, the statement, “Freeman of SALSA said that even if the sanctions against Zimbabwe were imposed for sound reasons, ‘what they're doing really hurts the average, everyday people in Zimbabwe,’� is a misrepresentation of what I said because I do not think the reasons for sanctions against Zimbabwe are sound, and would not have said so.

The lesson here is how imperialist news media is used to advance its hegemony. The article has so many falsehoods about the event, about IPS, SALSA and myself that time and space will not allow me address in this response the slanderous politics included against Zimbabwe herself. 

For that is subject matter for another article, all together.

Netfa Freeman is the Director of the Social Action & Leadership School for Activists at the Institute for Policy Studies and an organizer with PALO, the Pan-African Liberation Organization.  He is also co-author of the Black Star News article "Zimbabwe: Psychosis Of Denial."
 He can be reached at


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