The independent Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe says the state media have embarked on a campaign of hate speech against the opponents of the government and ruling party.   VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg the project says the message is akin to that disseminated by the Rwandan state media ahead of the 1994 genocide in that country.

The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe says that the public media in Zimbabwe has been transformed into purveyors of appalling hate messages against opponents of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

The Project's Advocacy Coordinator Abel Chikomo, tells VOA that in particular the media has been targeting the Movement for Democratic Change's presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.  He says such messages are reminiscent of the hate speech used in Rwanda prior to the 1994 genocide, and that their message is clear.

"Because the objective of such a policy is to damage the reputation of those being attacked to such an extent it creates the impression in the public mind that they no longer deserve the protections of basic human rights," said Chikomo.

In their most recent report, the project cites a number of examples of hate speech including statements by President Robert Mugabe that, in effect, voting for Tsvangirai would be a vote for war and that X's marked on ballots in an election were no match for guns.

Chikomo says such messages are especially chilling coming, as they do against the current backdrop of widespread torture, violence and murder in Zimbabwe.  Humanitarian organizations say most of the violence is be perpetrated by ZANU-PF militia and members of the security forces.  Chikomo says these messages encourage violence and create an environment of impunity for perpetrators.

"Those people [who are] aligned to the political opposition are being taken like lesser human beings than those who actually support the ruling party," he said.  "And therefore they become legitimate targets of violence."

Currently all broadcast and almost all print media is state owned, leaving very little space for independent reporting and opinion.  In a statement this week, the MDC said the party was being denied the opportunity to advertise.  The party added this was in direct violation of Zimbabwe's electoral law and Southern Africa Development Community rules on free and fair elections.