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Media crucial to holding of credible elections

Speakers, who addressed during the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) Discussion Forum held at the Trust Towers on Wednesday 24 April 2013, stressed that the media was essential to the holding of credible elections and whilst they argued that elections should be viewed as part of democratic processes rather than isolated events.

 

The theme of the discussion was Zimbabwean Media, Elections and Democracy.

 

According to the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ)'s Director, Takura Zhangazha, elections should be regarded as processes that reflect the democratic culture and people centered stability of a country over the long term.

(File photo of protesters demanding media freedom)

Zhangazha opined that elections were essentially the sum total of processes that lead to the establishment of what has been referred to in political parlance as 'government of the people, by the people and for the people'.

 

According to Zhangazha in our contemporary political context, elections have however not be seen or referred to popularly as resulting in us having 'government of the people, for the people and by the people' because,

 

"The disputed and controversial elections that have occurred since 2000 in Zimbabwe have not necessarily reflected the unfettered will, even by majority dictate, of the citizens of our country. €

 

Zhangazha said that the media was crucial to these democratic processes adding that,

 

"It must be emphasized that one of the key reasons has been the deliberate stifling of the media, access to information and broader freedom of expression by the state. €

 

Zhangazha pointed out that the culture and practice of impunity and criminalization of the media and freedom of expression by the Zimbabwean state has contributed significantly to how elections have not necessarily reflected the democratic will of the people.

 

Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN)'s Research and Advocacy Manager Runyararo Munetsi pointed out that Zimbabwe does not have a defined election calendar because the election calendar starts immediately when one election ends.

 

"We (ZESN) view elections as a cycle, as a process and not an event. We believe that the electoral process does not begin and end on election day. €

 

Munetsi said Zimbabwe basically has a five-year election calendar that fell into three stages when it comes to this electoral cycle that are namely, the pre-voting period, the voting period and the post-voting period.

 

She stressed that the media had a crucial role to play at every stage of the electoral cycle particularly in terms of raising awareness, providing information on where and how to register for voting.

"The media also needs to raise awareness, especially of marginalized groups who would need to go and register. The youth, for example, they need to go and register. When we did a study of the voter's roll we found out that only 18 percent of the youths are registered voters. That was in 2010 maybe figures have changed now, € said Munetsi.

 

Meanwhile, Goodwill Nguni of ZANU PF stressed that he was against the regulation of the media because, 'we must allow the media space to highlight imperfections' adding that,

 

"We don't want a media that is governed by political parties. I want a media that is robust. €

 

Nguni said he hoped the upcoming elections would require a robust media that would expose everyone and anyone who was corrupt regardless of their political affiliation adding that,

 

"We must not ascribe to the media the role of being political commissars for political organizations. €

 

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