Russian and Zimbabwean media grow closer – but is this to tell the truth or just a propaganda exercise to hide the failures of out-of-touch and incompetent leaders?

Posted: 8 August, 2023 | Category: Current News Category: Features & Analysis

Russian schoolchildren at the Khatyn Massacre Memorial in Belarus.  The German Army’s atrocities at Khatyn are not be confused with the Katyn Forest slaughter of 20,000 Polish Army officers on the orders of Stalin during World War. Teachers are told to follow the official line dictated by official historians in Moscow. God help them if they don’t. (Picture by Trevor Grundy – Minsk, USSR in August 1987) * 


By Trevor Grundy


Because of what is happening in Ukraine, not everyone in Africa wants to get into bed with Vladimir Putin.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa is an exception.

So, it comes as no surprise that state-approved journalists in Moscow and Harare are  pleased that their leaders have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that could see Russia Television (RT) starting an information centre in Zimbabwe, with a possibility for technology exchanges, media training and further education.

And not only for journalists.

Also, for those hungry to know about the turbulent relationship between the former Soviet Union and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe/ ZANU and ZAPU during the struggle for Independence during Chimurenga Two.

The deal was sealed on the sidelines of the Second Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum held in Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) 27-28 July, 2023.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa, said, “Zimbabwe wants to collaborate and make sure that our media space is opened-up to the Russian media, as it is equally opened-up for the Zimbabwean media. We want to see an exchange programme where journalists come from Zimbabwe to understand how they do their work. Equally, we have invited the minister and journalists from Russia to visit Zimbabwe.”

She added, “We are very ready to work with RT. We are ready to work with SPUTNIK and that us why you see our CEOs from these sectors are here to make sure that Zimbabweans and Russians know each other.’’

Minister Mutsvangwa said there was also discussion on developing a film school and partnerships in the area of film as well as content exchange for cultural programmes.

What Zimbabwean journalists can learn from their counterparts in Vladimir Putin’s Russia about speaking the truth to those in power remains, of course, to be seen.

Possibly something. More likely, nothing at all.

Children and visiting journalists are given the same treatment when it comes to learning about the history of Russia. (Picture: Trevor Grundy)

An article in Odogwu Media Communications has spokenfavourably about Sputnik programmes which are aimed at young African journalists.

Here are some of the main points –

  • Sputnik, has trained 15 journalists from some African countries including Nigeria in furtherance of the media company’s commitment to promoting professionalism.
  • The training is part of Sputnik’s Pro Educational Project for young journalists.
  • The training is coming as part of Sputnik’s moves to establish a new operation hub in Africa and to strengthen cooperation with the continent.

In an interview, Sputnik’s Director of International Cooperation, Vasily Pushkov said that journalists and media operations world-wide were faces similar problems, hence Sputnik’s initiative to create a common platform where such problems could be discussed.

According to Pushkov, more than 90 journalists from many countries have benefitted from the Sputnik Pro News Generation Programme for young journalists.

 He added that the training is helping to make them better professionals.

“Our project, Sputnik Pro, is a programme that we launched many years ago specifically for young journalists and foreign students looking to become journalists.

“The idea is that the problem that the journalist in Russia is facing is completely the same for each and every country in the world; for each and every journalist in the world.

“So, the idea was – why not establish a system of mutual experience exchange, discussion platform for journalists from different countries – to create a united front towards solving those problems.

“So far, we have had participants from 90 countries over the years,” Pushkov said.

He said that the training would be a mutually beneficial 21st century kind of cooperation as Russia “looks to strengthen cooperation with Africa across various sectors.

“It will be mutually beneficial because that is the only way such cooperation can work in this 21st century,” Pushkov said.

What ordinary people talk about is one thing. What the authorities say they’re talking about is another. (Picture: Trevor Grundy in Moscow, August 1987). 

On strengthening media cooperation with Africa, the director pointed out that establishing an operational hub in Africa is, for Sputnik, a development in the right direction as it will enable the agency to get first-hand news directly from Africa and vice versa.

“Right now, we are in talks with our colleagues in Ethiopia about creating our new editorial office in Addis Ababa which basically will be our new central operations (area) for the region.

 “We will be employing correspondents in order to, first of all, bring more news about the continent, about the region for our Russian audience as well as our world-wide audience.

“This is the start of relaunching the programme after two years because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

“We had a dedicated Sputnik programme for Africa before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pushkov added.

Ms Ekatrina Torubarova, Head of Department for Public Diplomacy at Rossotrudnichestvo, the financial partner in the training, said the programme was organised to enhance professionalism among journalists globally.

“This programme is being operated under the Presidential Decree according to the News Generation Programme.

“It provides a unique opportunity to enhance professional growth. We have been running this programme since 2015 with Sputnik, and we hope that you will leave enhanced.

“We also hope that you will fall in love with Moscow, Russia, and become great friends of Russia,” Torubarova said.

NAN reports that the participating African journalists were trained in short Master classes on photography in the modern media, writing skills in a news agency, and practice-based media game, among other things. (NAN)


Sputniktime for Emmerson in Africa: “Zimbabwe wants to collaborate and make sure that our media space is opened up to the Russian media, as it is equally opened up to the Zimbabwean media.” – Monica Mutsvangwa.

On a Sputnik programme on 22 July 2022 Pushkov and colleague Tatiana Kakhareva told viewers that there is no comparison between “democracy” in the Soviet Union and “democracy” since 1991 in Russia.

Pushkov warmed the cockles of many a young heart when he said that you didn’t have to study for years to understand everything you need to know about Russian politics. You can learn everything you need to know in a matter of days.

Russian tutors would point visiting journalists in the right direction (see link below)

“You can really become an expert on Russian politics inside a five-day working week,” he declared.


Trevor Grundy writes –

  • On April 13, 1990 the Soviet Union finally admitted that under the orders of Stalin, Red Army soldiers, not German troops, slaughtered 5,000 Polish Army officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, in Western Russia in 1941. Polish historians and church leaders insist the figure was closer to 20,000. The corpses were found by German soldiers in 1943. At that time, Winston Churchill was calling Stalin “Uncle Joe” so the Germans were blamed for the atrocity, not the Soviets.According to the historian Norman Davies (Europe: A History published by Oxford University Press in 1996) the Khatyn Massacre was deliberately exploited by the Soviet authorities to cover up the Katyn Massacre. According  to Davies, this was a major reason for erecting the memorial close to Minsk – to create confusion with Katyn among mainly foreign visitors to Belarus.