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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Statement on the state of the media ahead of the 31 July harmonised elections
    Media Alliance of Zimbabwe
    July 24, 2013

    As Zimbabwe falters towards the 31 July elections, a free, independent, diverse media remains elusive despite being an important ingredient in ensuring a credible, free and fair election. The lack of political will to institute media reforms following commitments in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in 2008 and the subsequent roadmap in 2011 has limited media freedom, diversity and access to relevant information on elections by Zimbabweans.

    Agreed media reform priorities included the repeal of repressive legislation, the reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT), Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) boards, an unwavering commitment to self-regulation, access to public information, genuine opening up of the airwaves and a non-partisan public service media.

    To date, Zimbabwe has seen cosmetic media reforms with the licensing of print media publications and 2 commercial radio broadcasters, however, these are undermined by the continued existence of repressive laws on the media such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (on defamation and insult), the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act, Interception of Communications Act, and Official Secrets Act. In addition, the inclusive government’s failure to re-constitute the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust and the boards of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe has resulted in continued political interference with the editorial independence of the state-controlled Zimpapers and the ZBC, which has heightened as the country entered the electoral period.

    This is why media reform was high on the agenda of the SADC Special Summit on Zimbabwe held in Maputo on June 15, 2013. The facilitator’s report adopted by the Summit noted the need for a conducive playing field in the media to ensure a free and fair election. The report recommended the setting up of an Inter-Ministerial committee from the three parties to the GPA to monitor and take action on hate speech by the media, as well as to intervene to ensure the state media maintains an impartial stance during elections, recommendations that have not been taken up.

    MAZ is concerned with the non-conducive broader media environment characterised by bias and intolerance by some sections of the media, violations against media personnel in the course of their duties, limited monitoring of media houses against set standards and codes of conduct by relevant authorities; compounded by the continued existence of repressive media legislation.

    The responsibility and role of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and sole local television station becomes even more important at this crucial time in the country’s history. As a state broadcaster serving the interests of the public at large the role of ZBC is to ensure that voters are able to make an informed choice by providing fair, balanced, accurate and objective coverage of candidates, parties and all related electoral processes. The new Constitution passed earlier this year provides guidance as Section 61 (4) states that All State-owned media of communication must -

    (a) be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or other communications;
    (b) be impartial; and
    (c) afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.

    MAZ is therefore concerned by the blatant bias by the ZBC, firstly by reporters wearing party regalia while reporting to the nation. Secondly, monitoring reports by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) have noted a continued trend of positive reporting for Zanu-PF and persistent negative reports for the MDC-T. A worrying trend in the last few weeks has also been the lack of clarity and monitoring of political advertising on the ZBC, where adverts mocking and discrediting the Prime Minister are aired on television and radio. The adverts are however, not clearly identified as adverts, nor indicate who placed the adverts as such going against Clause 160H (1) (c) of the Electoral Act that states that every advert should be clearly identified as such. (MMPZ Report “Eye on ZBC” – June 2013)

    MAZ is also worried by the increase in cases of assault and harassment of journalists following the proclamation of the 31 July elections and MISA Zimbabwe has recorded in the first six months of 2013, 58% of cases recorded in 2011. Cases recorded have included: the brutal attack and hospitalisation of Chinhoyi-based journalist Paul Pindai on 14 June by unknown assailants; the assault of Zimbabwe Independent reporter Herbert Moyo; the harassment and detention of The Chronicle reporter Mashudu Netsiada by MDC-T security personnel. The harassment and detention at Zanu-PF headquarters of Daily News and Newsday reporters, Wendy Muperi and Wongai Masvingise by the party’s security personnel on 21 June

    The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe urges the Zimbabwe government, and SADC as the guarantors of the GPA and by extension this election, to urge the government of Zimbabwe to abide by the 2004 SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections to allow freedom of expression, as well as access to the media by stakeholders during electoral processes.

    Specifically, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe calls on:

    • The Government of Zimbabwe to guarantee the safety of journalists and media workers covering elections and allow them to conduct their lawful professional duties without hindrance as it is their constitutionally guaranteed right to do so
    • Leaders of political parties to educate their supporters on the need to safeguard freedom of expression and the media and issue strong statements against party members who perpetrate acts of violence/harassment against the media
    • The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to enforce the SADC Principles on the Conduct of Democratic Elections, and the Electoral Act’s provisions on equitable access to the public broadcasting media, political advertising in broadcasting and print media, publication of electoral information in the public interest, the conduct of the news media during elections and the respect of media and journalists by political parties
    • ZEC to effectively monitor and publicise its monitoring mechanisms to ensure adherence to provisions laid out in the Electoral Act as well as its Media Coverage of Elections regulations by political parties, candidates, and the media
    • ZEC to monitor the state media rigorously and ensure that it plays its role as spelt out in the new constitution.
    • ZEC to raise awareness on the media code of conduct for covering election

    About the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe

    The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe is a partnership of media advocacy and representative groups in Zimbabwe working towards defending freedom of expression and freedom of the media. Since its formation, MAZ has been advocating for media law and policy reform, to ensure a free, fair, independent and pluralistic media.

    Members of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe are:

    Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Chapter

    Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)

    Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ)

    Zimbabwe National Editors' Forum (ZINEF)

    Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe (FAMWZ)

    Africa Community Publishing Development Trust (ACPDT)

    Visit the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe fact sheet

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