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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
MMPZ comments on ZEC's election period reminder to the media
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
June 21, 2013
the timely counsel to media houses by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC) chairperson Rita Makarau to uphold professional journalistic
standards in their reportage of the upcoming
Press conference on June 17th to update journalists on the organization’s
preparations for the elections, the ZEC boss reminded journalists
they had an obligation to report elections in a fair, balanced and
accurate manner. Following the proclamation of the election date,
the Chairperson reminded Zimbabwe’s media houses that this
marked the start of an “election period” and that they
should immediately comply with the country’s electoral laws
by giving all political parties fair and equitable coverage (The
media organizations that ZEC would be “closely monitoring
the coverage of political issues in the media”.
Although a recent
SADC meeting of heads of State proposed that government seek an
extension to the July 31st poll date to accommodate reforms envisaged
under the Global
Political Agreement as proposed by Zanu-PF’s coalition
partners, Makarau said ZEC was pressing ahead with its election
preparations as it was “guided by the principle that the date
of elections holds until the proclamation fixing it is lawfully
rescinded or amended”
(The Herald 18/6).
Sections 160J and 160K of the Electoral
Act, under which her commission derives the mandate to monitor
the media’s election coverage to ensure fair and equitable
publicity to contestants as stipulated under domestic and regional
provides that ZEC, with the assistance of media regulatory bodies,
the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and the Broadcasting Authority
of Zimbabwe (BAZ), monitor news media in election periods to ensure
equitable treatment of all political parties and candidates as stipulated
under Section 160k.
ZEC’s call for media houses to report responsibly in their
coverage of elections promotes public confidence in the electoral
process, it is our hope that this call will be followed by concrete
actions to censure offenders across the media divide. This will
be critical in ensuring a departure from the intolerable bias demonstrated
by the public and state-owned media in the run-up to the June
27 2008 elections.
ZEC, ZMC and BAZ to formulate and enforce criteria to ensure equitable
coverage of parties and candidates in the election period.
it will be imperative for ZEC to formulate a code of conduct for
the content of direct access in the media to prevent advertisements
of inflammatory and defamatory material as well as set limits on
the amount of private advertising allowed for each political party
or candidate. This will minimize undue advantage to those parties
with extensive campaign funds. These recommendations are critical
given that there has been no let up in the biased coverage, especially
in the State-run media. This is despite provisions calling for responsible
and ethical media conduct under the GPA and contained in the Zimbabwe
Elections Roadmap, signed by Zimbabwe’s political negotiators
to the agreement on July 6th, 2011.
MMPZ’s monitoring from June 1st to June 15th – during
the first 15 days of the “Election Period” 23 of the
26 stories the state-controlled media carried on the activities
of the MDC-T portrayed the party in bad light. Only three reports
(these comprised three of ZTV’s six reports on MDC-T) were
balanced and were all reported in the context of the Joint Monitoring
and Implementation Committee’s (Jomic’s) launch of the
Electoral Code of Conduct for parties and unified calls for peace
before, during and after elections. The 20 reports in the state
newspapers (The Herald and Sunday Mail) all denigrated the MDC-T
and its leadership.
Zanu-PF received favourable coverage in all 27 reports that appeared
in the state-controlled media (15 in The Herald and Sunday Mail,
12 on ZTV’s main evening news bulletins). The stories were
on the party’s readiness ahead of the harmonised elections.
MDC formation, led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, received
publicity in three balanced stories. Notably, these reports (all
on ZTV’s main evening news bulletins) were all reported in
the context of JOMIC’s launch of the electoral code of conduct
for political parties (The Herald and Sunday Mail ignored the Ncube
faction in this period). Such unprincipled conduct by the state-controlled
media even drew the indignation of the President last month.
signing the Constitution Amendment Bill into law on May 22nd, Mugabe
singled out The Herald for being “obsessed” with Tsvangirai:
“Herald yakananganawo naVaTsvangirai (is targeting Tsvangirai)”,
The Daily News and Zi FM reported (23/5).
In more recent
days, such bias has continued in these media and ZTV’s current
affairs programme, African Pride, especially its edition of June
13th – repeated on June 20th contained offensive, racist hate
language that labeled Zanu-PF’s political opposition “sell-outs”
and collaborators of “murderers”, and that anybody voting
for these groups were “equally guilty” of betraying
Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and struggle for independence. (A transcription
of this is available upon request).
Such false and
aggressive invective breeds a culture of intolerance and hatred
that nurtures political violence and has no place in any democracy,
let alone an “election period”.
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