Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has written to Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe(BAZ) asking them to grant equal coverage on all media platforms to all participating political parties for the upcoming 2018 Elections.
Since the past 20 years or so Zimbabweans have been ‘force fed’ to watch just one television channel, that is ZTV. The channel which is owned by the state-controlled broadcaster, ZBC has gained notoriety for its partiality in reporting news especially in the political realm.
ZBC has continuously been accused of only covering Zanu-PF election campaigns and ignoring those of political parties, most notably MDC’s election campaigns. The issue was included in a host of electoral concerns raised by the opposition MDC Alliance when it held a demonstration which was attended by about 10 000 people in Harare last week.
Two days after the demonstration, ZBC appeared to have reformed and went on to broadcast live the opposition MDC Alliance manifesto launch on both radio and television.
Now ZEC Chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba said ZMC and BAZ should provide equal coverage after June 14 when the nomination court sits. She said;
The commission has written to the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe in line with section 160 of the Electoral Act. The best time to ensure there is access to and equal coverage of all political parties by the media would be after June 14 when the commission knows who will be contesting
Meanwhile, a report published some weeks ago by Media Monitors reported that only Zanu PF received coverage on ZBC (radio and TV) and the coverage was purported to be mostly neutral (I very much doubt the accuracy of this). Therefore, I think Mrs. Chigumba’s instruction to ZMC and BAZ is warranted.
Media has long been recognized as a cornerstone of democracy and it should play an important role in influencing political discourse during elections. Providing every politician a platform, to be heard is one duty that media has to fulfill.
But elections usually pose a special challenge for the media to cover. The media must remain neutral and objective in order to properly educate the public on what the politicians stand for. Media coverage should be unbiased rather than favoring any one candidate or point of view in order for the voters to make informed decisions. In that regard, political journalists can be helpful in this role.