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Media reforms key ahead of any electoral processes
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
May 04, 2011

The media in every society plate the fundamental roles of providing information, providing a platform for public discussion, reflecting the goals and values of the society and monitoring government activities. The absence of a free and vibrant media has a negative impact on key democratic processes including elections. As the world commemorates World Press Freedom Day, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition calls upon the iclusive government to ensure that media reforms take place before the holding of any election to allow the electorate an opportunity to make informed decisions.

Zimbabwe has, since the 1980's been characterized by a partisan public media, used as a ZANU PF mouthpiece and platform for denigrating perceived opponents while the private media has operated under stringent laws and policies as well as constant victimisation and threats. Despite the coming in of an inclusive government in 2009, the media environment remains highly tilted in favour of ZANU PF while the victimisation of media practitioners remains a major hindrance to the full enjoyment of the right to information.

It is well understood that the late delivery stage of the current transition will be an election. While the Zimbabwe Media Commission licensed new players in the media industry, the operating environment remains highly restrictive and does not promote democratic elections. The public media has already begun campaigning for ZANU PF while the recent raiding of the privately owned NewsDay points to high levels of intolerance towards private media players.

Article 17 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which states that state parties to the charter should 'Ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state controlled media during elections'. It is evident that should the current trend continue and should elections take place, the ZANU PF controlled public media will initiate a total media blackout on opposition parties, giving much airplay to ZANU PF.

Ahead of any election, The Coalition demands that the inclusive government, as part of their Roadmap to Elections, particularly ZANU PF which seems to be in control of the media should work on:

  • Freeing the airwaves and allowing for the proliferation of new media players particularly in the broadcasting sector.
  • Allowing the public media to operate freely and in the Public Interest, reflecting the different shades of Zimbabwean public opinion. The Coalition demands that both the national broadcaster and public newspapers be managed by professional journalists who protect the interests of the general public without bias and pursuing partisan interests.
  • Halting and condemning all attacks on and intimidation of the private media by both state security agents and political party activists
  • Repealing laws which hinder full and free operation of the media including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), among other laws which are mimical to free media and full enjoyment of information rights.
  • The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) must be reconstituted urgently and licensing of aspiring community and commercial broadcasters begins as an interim measure to open up the airwaves ahead of elections.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, and the print media, must afford all political parties and independent candidates contesting an election free access to their broadcasting services in line with all the robust provisions of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Media Coverage of Elections) Regulations.

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe fact sheet

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