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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Media ethics analysis column: 12 August – 18 August 2013
    Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
    August 20, 2013

    ‘Let’s not sow seeds of disharmony’

    Welcome to the fifth publication of the VMCZ Media Ethics Column.

    The column’s assessment would be based on a reading of media stories from 12 August to 18 August 2013.

    The VMCZ Media Ethics Committee analysed stories from various media houses that include the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) television and the five daily newspapers, namely, NewsDay, The Herald, The Chronicle, The Southern Eye and the Daily News.

    The Media Ethics Committee paid particular attention on Election petitions and the SADC Summit held in Lilongwe Malawi last week. Both print and broadcast media institutions reported on election petitions and the SADC summit proceedings differently and the committee took into account how broadcast media covered this event.

    Although the committee highlighted key issues prior to the preceding review, the issue of continued polarisation in the broadcast media is still of great concern. On the contrary some private media institutions are partisan in their coverage of opposition parties.

    It is against this background that the MEC identified key issues over the preceding week as being the following:

    i) Media’s coverage of election petitions
    ii) Malawi SADC Summit
    iii) Media coverage of the forthcoming Presidential inauguration

    i) Media coverage on election petitions

    The electoral petition filed by outgoing Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai received extensive coverage from both the print and the broadcast media.

    Both the state controlled and private media took a partisan stance in either supporting the outgoing Prime Minister’s court application or castigating the court application. In doing so the media breached Section 10 (a) of the VMCZ’s Code of Conduct which states:

    a) Media practitioners and media institutions must not publish material that is intended or 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

    The MEC urges media institutions to strive to uphold a professional conduct during this period.

    ii) Malawi SADC Summit

    While state controlled media coverage on the summit dwelled on the grand welcome for President Mugabe in Malawi, ZBC stopped at nothing to gloat on the support Zanu-PF received from SADC leaders. On contrary, private media paid particular attention on the attempts by civil society and the MDC attempts to lobby regional leaders to reject the poll outcome in Zimbabwe.

    The MEC however, noted with great concern how state broadcaster ZBC gave ample coverage to Zanu-PF officials gloating on the fairness and credibility of this year’s elections while the opposition was not afforded an opportunity to give its views. It is against this background that the MEC emphasizes Section 4(v) of the code of conduct to media institutions the section states that:

    4 (v) Media institutions must endeavour to provide full, fair and balanced reports of events and must not suppress essential information pertaining to those events. They must not distort information by exaggeration, by giving only one side of a story, by placing improper emphasis on one aspect of a story, by reporting the facts out of the context in which they occurred or by suppressing relevant available facts. They must avoid using misleading headlines or billboard postings.

    iii) Media coverage of the forthcoming Presidential inauguration

    The much anticipated Presidential inauguration slated for this week Thursday has been covered from a different perspective by both the private and state run media institutions.

    The MEC also took note that while the state media was positive that the electoral challenge will pave the way for the president’s inauguration, the private media was of the opinion that the inauguration would be delayed by the electoral petitions.

    The media was speculating on the inauguration event with the state media anticipating the use of a bigger venue for the event.

    On the contrary private media cited grave concern of the president’s age ahead a 7th term. A number of pieces, some with an underlying tone of hate language, were published as an outcry of the president’s ability to rule for another 5years.

    iv) General

    Over and above, MEC took note of efforts by media practitioners to urge the nation to desist from violence and move on. The committee urges media institutions to abide the VMCZ Code of Conduct for Zimbabwe which promotes media professionalism and accountability.

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