We have written about the critical role media plays in influencing opinion in elections. Now one of the most important observers of the ongoing elections, European Union Election Observer Mission (EUEOM) has cited the failure by state media to provide equal treatment to all political parties. EUROM said;
Based on EU EOM monitoring, the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, failed to abide by its legal obligation to ensure equitable and fair treatment to all political parties and candidates. State-owned TV, radio and newspapers, which dominate the media landscape, were heavily biased in favour of the ruling party and incumbent president in their election-related coverage. Media operated in a generally free environment during the campaign and freedom of expression was respected. The legal framework for media, while providing for fundamental rights, needs further improvement to bring it into line with the Constitution.
EUEOM’s statement tallies with African Union Election Observer Mission (AUEOM), which also noted the bias of the state media. AUEOM said;
…in light of the partisan and polarised nature of the media in Zimbabwe, consider full implementation of the Broadcasting Service Act and ensure equal access to the State Broadcaster to all contestants during elections.
During an election period, the issue of equal access to the media, particularly radio and television is of critical importance and has a decisive influence on the election outcome. Biased coverage therefore seriously erodes democracy.
For fair political contestation, the state media, who are funded by taxpayers, not ruling party money, must apportion coverage equally to all players in the field.