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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • State media give selective coverage on new mobile voter registration exercise
    The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
    June 28, 2013

    MMPZ notes with concern the superficial and uninformative coverage of the ongoing mobile voter registration exercise in the state-controlled media. As state-owned and managed media institutions they have a duty to report on the exercise accurately and to facilitate Zimbabwe’s voting public to be registered. But the kind of “sunshine journalism” these organizations are producing do neither.

    They have not reported on the difficulties being encountered by the public to get themselves registered, nor have they provided adequate information about the requirements necessary for citizens to register successfully. Instead they have confined themselves mostly to official statements on the exercise and studiously ignored the thousands of people, especially in urban centres, who have failed to ensure they can vote in the coming elections as a result of delays and the allocation of insufficient resources to cope with the demand. While the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission inserted four advertisements outlining the requirements necessary to register (three in The Herald and one in The Sunday Mail) in the first 14 days of the new registration that MMPZ monitored (from June 9th to June 23rd), the state media did nothing to promote this information. (ZEC also inserted two advertisements in the private Press – one each in NewsDay and the Standard).

    The state-controlled media, The Herald, The Sunday Mail and ZTV provided selective and superficial coverage of the voter registration exercise, censoring concerns raised in the private media.

    Between June 9th, when the second phase of the current exercise began, and June 23rd (the period of this report), these media collectively carried 67 stories on the mobile voter registration exercise. Twenty of these appeared in the state-controlled media (The Herald [7] and ZTV [13]); while the privately owned media carried the remaining 47 reports ((Daily News [14], NewsDay [10], Zimbabwe Independent [5], The Standard [5], Zi FM [4], SW Radio Africa [2], Star FM [6] and Studio 7 [1]). The Sunday Mail did not carry a single story on registration exercise in their two editions covered by this report.

    In general, the impression conveyed by the state-controlled media was that the voter registration process was proceeding smoothly but relied exclusively on pronouncements by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and other official sources, such as the Registrar-General’s office.

    They repeatedly quoted ZEC chair Rita Makarau commenting on the logistical modalities of the process among other issues, ranging from partnerships with NGOs, media houses and developments of the exercise. Some reports attempted to justify the limited time and human resources allocated to the exercise. Notably, these media gave Registrar-General (RG), Tobaiwa Mudede, ample space to refute allegations that the registration exercise was flawed and to dismiss reports on registration challenges faced by those considered ‘alien’. However, there was no independent corroboration to balance these official statements.

    In contrast, the privately owned media reported extensively on the chaotic nature of the voter registration exercise and the difficulties Zimbabweans were experiencing in their efforts to get registered. (These media include the Daily News, NewsDay, The Standard, Zimbabwe Independent, Studio 7 and SW Radio Africa).

    Through eye-witness and citizen-based reports, opinion pieces and editorials, the private media exposed the challenges faced by the electorate in their quest to register as voters. These include the disenfranchisement of ‘aliens’, the slow and cumbersome service at registration centres and the lack of provision for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to register. All these media blamed Mudede’s office for the chaos.

    However, coverage of the exercise by Star FM, the radio station owned by the Zimpapers, the same company that owns The Herald and Sunday Mail, was passive and lopsided. The station mostly relied on ZEC pronouncements; and those from the Registrar-General’s office.

    These findings by MMPZ add context to observations by other civic society organisations (CSOs) that have monitored the process such, as Bulawayo Agenda. The organisation’s Activity report on a Peace Concert held in Matobo highlights that “some participants were not aware of the registration process, evidence that the process was poorly publicized…”

    The report adds: “Sideline interviews with some participants showed that youths were ignorant and disinterested in registering to vote”.

    The tone of most of the reports was reflected in their headlines as shown below, although in some cases the subject was contained in stories about other election-related issues.

    State Controlled Media The Herald stories

    • Mudede defends district based voter registration (The Herald, 11/6)
    • MDC-T rapped over voter registration (The Herald, 11/6)
    • Enough time for ‘aliens’ to register, says Madhuku (The Herald, 12/6)
    • More register to vote (The Herald, 12/6)
    • Polygamous families drag voter registration (The Herald, 19/6)
    • Mudede dismisses report on alien registration challenges (The Herald, 20/6)
    • Registration as easy as ABC for some aliens (The Herald, 22/6)
    • Three ZEC Adverts

    ZTV stories

    • ZEC announcement on commencement of registration and inspection (9/6, 8PM)
    • Second phase mobile voter registration kicks off (10/6 8PM)
    • ZEC to partner NGOs in voter education (10/6, 8PM)
    • Registrar-General bemoans lack of funding, as voter registration begins ZTV 10/6, 8PM)
    • No new delimitation of boundaries– ZEC (11/6, 8PM)
    • ZEC ready for harmonized elections (12/6, 8PM)
    • ZEC issues statement on qualification for voter education (12/6, 8PM)
    • Hundreds take advantage of mobile voter registration in Bulawayo (12/6, 8PM)
    • Candidates to submit nomination papers to ZEC for scrutiny– Chinamasa (12/6, 8PM)
    • ZEC to work closely with media houses’ – Makarau (17/6, 8PM)
    • Voter registration progressing well in Midlands province (17/6, 8PM
    • Voter registration moving smoothly and swiftly’ – Kazembe (17/6 8PM
    • Mobile voter registration progressing well in Matabeleland South (19/6, 8PM)

    Privately Owned Media

    Daily News stories

    • Take advantage of voter registration (10/6)
    • Give citizens chance to register (10/6)
    • Mudede ‘quizzed’ over voter registration (11/6)
    • July poll will violate my rights (12/6)
    • Mudede refers ‘aliens’ to KGVI barracks (12/6)
    • Con-Court defers ruling on Diaspora vote (14/6)
    • July 31 remains poll date, says ZEC (18/6)
    • Voter education roars into life in Chitungwiza (18/6)
    • Civil society clampdown taints poll (20/6)
    • Con-Court sets down ‘alien’ case for hearing (20/6)
    • Diaspora vote: The long wait (21/6)
    • Aliens disenfranchised in voter registration (22/6)
    • Machisa, Zimrights acquitted (Daily News, 22/6)
    • Kezi villagers fail to get IDs (Daily News, 22/6)

    Zimbabwe Independent stories

    • Zanu PF hardliners push for elections (7/6)
    • Fresh chaos rocks 30-day voter registration (14/6)
    • Mudede frustrating the 30-day voter registration (21/6)
    • MPs, chiefs make quick buck from hiring out vehicles (21/6)
    • Registering as a voter proves cumbersome (21/6)

    The Standard stories

    • Scores fail to register as voters (16/6)
    • Voter education exercise a right for all (16/6)
    • Voter registration slow, painful (23/6)
    • Biti rubbishes registration exercise (23/6)
    • No hassles registering in rural centres (23/6)
    • One ZEC advertisement

    NewsDay stories

    • We can’t afford 30-day registration-Mudede (10/6)
    • Aliens will remain aliens – Mudede (12/6)
    • MDCs slam Mudede (13/6)
    • Shame on you Mudede (13/6)
    • Con-court postpones case on postal voting (14/6)
    • Don’t be distracted from voter registration sham (15/6)
    • Chaos mars voter registration (19/6)
    • Parliament queries voter registrar over Zanu PF regalia (20/6)
    • MP in $1-for-a-vote scandal (21/6)
    • ZimRights officials discharged (22/6)
    • One ZEC advertisement

    Zi FM stories

    • The new voter registration exercise in line with the new constitution failed to kick off as scheduled yesterday (4/6, 7PM)
    • Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede said Zimbabweans in the diaspora will not vote (9/6, 6PM)
    • Mobile voter registration now underway (11/6, 7PM)
    • The ZCTU is calling on the government to declare a holiday so that workers will be able to go out and register as voters (20/6, 7PM)

    Star FM stories

    • Mudede says he has not breached the constitution by reducing the number of days for voter registration (10/6)
    • Mudede explains who is entitled to Zimbabwe citizenship in line with the voter registration exercise (11/6)
    • ZEC says environment is conducive for free and fair outcome. Makarau was speaking before a parliamentary portfolio committee on Security and peace. (12/6)
    • Rita Makarau says new voters will be given voter registration slips as proof that they have registered to vote. (14/6)
    • ZEC deputy chairperson Joyce Kazemebe says the commission is ready for harmonised elections to be held on July 31 once it gets funding for the running of the polls. (17/6)
    • Tendai Biti says they have resolved to make an amendment to electoral laws, which will allow voters who failed to register in the 30- day exercise to do so in a supplementary voters roll. (18/6)

    SW Radio Africa stories

    • 30-Day voter Registration exercise underway (10/6)
    • Voter campaign a slow and painful exercise (24/6)

    Studio 7 stories

    • Zimbabwe’s fresh voter registration exercise begins ahead of anticipated poll (10/6)

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