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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Media ethics analysis column: 12-19 July 2013
    Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
    July 22, 2013

    Welcome to the first weekly VMCZ Ethics Analysis column. This column is based on a reading of media stories in the preceding week and juxtaposing them with Sections 10 and 11 of the VMCZ Media Code of Conduct which outline the expected professional conduct of the media during electoral periods.

    This column highlights the media’s coverage of election related issues from 15 July to 19 July 2013. The VMCZ analysed stories from various media houses including the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) television and five daily newspapers, namely, NewsDay, The Herald, The Chronicle, The Southern Eye and the Daily News.

    The Media Ethics Committee identified the major issues covered by the media over the last week as being the following:

    a) Coverage of the Special Voting days
    b) Coverage of political party campaigns
    c) Coverage of SADC mediation processes on the Zimbabwean elections.

    The VMCZ in reviewing the above cited coverage took note of the following generic issues affecting the media:

    1. Media Polarisation

    There have been varying versions of all of the above citied stories and their coverage. What this has pointed to is the truth that the media in the country appears to be polarized with the four private daily newspapers more inclined to carrying positive stories of opposition political parties while the state controlled daily papers and broadcaster have a favourable toward Zanu-PF. It is therefore recommended that all newspapers should be strive to be accurate, fair and balanced in the manner in which they cover political events in this electoral period.

    2. Political party campaigns

    The state controlled national broadcaster ZTV continues to give extensive live coverage to Zanu-PF while largely ignoring activities of other main political parties. ZTV covered in full three rallies conducted by President Mugabe in Chitungwiza, Lupane and in Chinhoyi while none of the other contesting political parties have received live coverage of their rallies. The Media Ethics Committee reiterates that this conduct by ZTV represents a gross violation of Zimbabwe's electoral laws governing the media's coverage of election issues, as all political parties should receive fair and equitable coverage from the public broadcaster.

    3. Hate language

    Hate language dominated the newspaper pages of all the daily newspapers and the Media Ethics Committee urges all newspapers to report using non-inflammatory language. The Media Ethics Committee urges the three daily newspaper editors to ensure that inflammatory language is not used by reporters during the election period in accordance with Article 10 of the VMCZ code of conduct which stipulates that:

    • Media practitioners and media institutions must not publish material that is intended or is likely to engender hostility or hatred towards persons on the grounds of their race, ethnic origin, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, religion or political affiliation.
    • Media institutions must take utmost care to avoid contributing to the spread of ethnic hatred or political violence.

    4. Use of political commentators

    The media across the board used known politicians as political commentators. Known political party office holders were touted as political commentators and they freely denigrate opponents under the guise of being political commentators. The Media Ethics Committee identified this as an insult to readers who believe that the political commentators used by newspapers are neutral people giving neutral comments on political issues.

    5. SADC Mediation

    The media’s coverage on the SADC troika meeting was inadequate as not much and in-depth analysis was done for the meeting. The media apart from covering the positions of the main political parties, concentrated on the insults on President Jacob Zuma’s international relations adviser and did not devote any time to make projections on issues dogging the preparation of elections to be discussed at the Troika summit that was scheduled for Saturday 20 July 2013. The subsequent coverage of the Troika Communique was however, accurate and fair across the media divide.

    6. General

    The Media Ethics Committee however, felt all six (private and state controlled) daily newspapers did well in informing members of the public on voting processes ahead of special voting days. However, the committee noted with concern the media contestation over matters relating to reported irregularities in the special voting process which clumimnated in a carefully worded statement from the Zimbabwe Elecotral Commission over the media coverage of the same process. The committee however, feels that most newspapers adequately interpreted provisions of the electoral law in their media coverage during the period under review.

    The Media Ethics Committee reiterates that the media should cover the elections in a fair, accurate, balanced and truthful manner in order to retain public trust in the media’s coverage of the election period. If members of the public are not happy with any story published by the media in Zimbabwe they are free to lodge a complaint with the VMCZ’s Media Complaints Committee.

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