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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Media ethics analysis column: 28 July – 4 August 2013
    Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
    August 06, 2013

    ‘May peace prevail’

    Welcome to the third publication of the VMCZ Ethics Analysis column on the media’s conduct during the July 31 2013 harmonised elections. This column is based on a reading of media stories in the preceding week and will juxtapose them with Sections 10 and 11 of the VMCZ Media Code of Conduct which outlines the expected professional conduct of the media during electoral periods.

    The column will today make an assessment of how the media has continued to cover the just ended 2013 elections taking into account electoral issues from 28 July to 4 August 2013. The VMCZ analysed stories from various media houses including the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) television and the five daily newspapers, namely, News Day, The Herald, The Chronicle, The Southern Eye and the Daily News.

    The Media Ethics Committee (MEC) noted the use of derogatory language on political candidates and political parties that lost in this year’s elections. More so the continued use of hate speech by both the private and public media was also rampant during this period as newspapers and the electronic media resorted to name calling. The committee calls on the media to stop using hate language as this increases hostility and tension in the post election period.

    Suffice to say the MEC wishes to remind all state and private media houses as well as journalists of the need to promote peace in their reportage.

    The MEC identified the major issues covered by the media over the last week as being the following:

    i) Polling day coverage.
    ii) Coverage of and announcement of results.
    iii) Post election coverage.

    In reviewing the above-cited coverage, VMCZ took note of the following generic issues affecting the media:

    1. Coverage on polling day

    The committee commends efforts by media institutions to encourage people to go out and vote and for reporting on the conducive atmosphere that allowed people to go and cast their votes without any fear. The committee noted that the media in their coverage concentrated on preaching peace and giving hope to Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliations. The committee commends the media for their professionalism in that area.

    2. Coverage of and announcement of results

    2.1 The committee noted that all newspapers in the country covered the election result announcement in accordance with provisions provided for in the Electoral Act. The media in their coverage took cognisance of the whole process of announcing results and only communicated results that were announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

    The MEC also took note of the media’s open partisan coverage of political parties in their leader pages and in opinion pieces. The MEC also noted that comments in most newspapers were biased and were used to cement newspaper positions towards certain political parties. Most newspaper comments used inflammatory language and were either celebratory or derogatory.

    2.2 The committee urges editors to examine all letters to the editor, comments and opinions that promote hatred and incite violence and should weed out such letters to the editor and opinion pieces from their newspaper pages.

    The promotion of violence, use of hate speech and inflammatory language violates the VMCZ’s Code of Conduct as it breaches Sections 10 & 11 of the code.

    3. Post election coverage

    3.1 The MEC witnessed with great concern numerous pieces of opinions and stories conveying mixed emotions after the announcing of results. In the week under review some newspapers, including weekly newspapers, published comments where they openly expressed their joy or shock using inflammatory, derogatory and abusive language.

    The MEC urges caution among media practitioners as some stories may cause tension in the country.

    3.2 The MEC also reminds editors of newspapers of their obligation to promote peace in the country and refers the editors to Section 7b and 7c of the VMCZ code of conduct which read:

    7b) A comment or expression of opinion must be a genuine and honest comment or expression of opinion relating to established fact.
    7c) Comment or conjecture must not be presented in such a way as to create the impression that it is established fact.

    The MEC while acknowledging that newspapers can back policies of a certain political party, they however have an obligation to provide accurate, truthful and balanced information to their readers.

    4. General

    The MEC urges media institutions to play a peace-keeping role as the nation moves from the election day into post election period. The committee also encourages media practitioners to be balanced, fair and accurate in their reportage.

    If members of the public are not happy with any story published by the media in Zimbabwe on any election related matter they are free to lodge a complaint with the VMCZ’s Media Complaints Committee.

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