Thursday, May 31, 2018

Zec should play its media monitoring role

Views
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared July 30 as the day elections will be held and it is now time the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) developed some teeth to ensure a credible election.
With the country now in the election period, Zec is mandated by the law to ensure that all the contesting parties have equal access to public media.
ZBC and Zimpapers, where the public have a stake, have behaved as if they are part of the Zanu PF information department in detriment to opposition parties.
Where stories of the opposition have been published, they have been negative and in terms of numbers, pale significantly compared to Zanu PF’s.
In some cases, there is tokenism, where the State media just go through the motions pretending to be giving the opposition some coverage, when in fact it is meaningless.
Thus it is incumbent on Zec to look closely at the media, particularly public media, to ensure that all partisanship is rooted out.
It is imperative that the public media is not seen to be favouring one side in the election, as this is tantamount to tilting the electoral playing field in favour of one candidate or party.
Zec has to show that it is fit for purpose by engaging the public media and pointing out the dos and don’ts, with objective being ensuring that the election is as free and fair as possible.
Mnangagwa has already promised a free and fair election and he has to put his money where his mouth is by ensuring that the media environment caters for all the candidates.
It is pointless to declare a a free and fair election, when the public media is in the pockets of one candidate.
In ZBC’s case for example, the broadcaster has the widest reach and is owned by the public and, thus, it is duty bound to ensure that they provide balanced news and any partisanship has to be done away with.
Constitutionally, Zec has a duty to ensure that the public media plays ball and they should censure it if it goes against the dictates of the law.
Zec should not be seen to be a paper tiger, but rather it must stamp its foot down and ensure that all candidates get fair coverage.
It is also imperative that after elections, the new legislature should prioritise media reform and not wait for a month or year before elections to start speaking.
A non-partisan public media goes to the foundation of democracy and the new legislature has to ensure this is at the top of their list.