05 May 2011 Written by 

Media reforms key ahead of any electoral processes

The media in every society plays the fundamental roles of providing information, providing a platform for public discussion, reflecting the goals and values of the society and monitoring government

The absence of a free and vibrant media has a negative impact on key democratic processes

including elections. As the world commemorates World Press Freedom day, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
calls upon the inclusive government to ensure that media reforms take place before the holding of any
election to allow the electorate an opportunity to make informed decisions.

Zimbabwe has, since the 1980's, been characterized by a partisan public media, used as a ZANU PF
mouthpiece and a platform for denigrating perceived opponents while the private media has operated
under stringent laws and policies as well as constant victimization and threats. Despite the coming in of
an inclusive government in 2009, the media environment remains highly tilted in favor of ZANU PF while
the victimization of media practitioners remains a major hindrance to the full enjoyment of the right to

It is well understood that the late delivery stage of the current transition will be an election. While the
Zimbabwe Media Commission licensed new players in the media industry, the operating environment
remains highly restrictive and does not promote democratic elections. The public media has already
begun campaigning for ZANU PF while the recent raiding of the privately owned NewsDay points to the
high levels of intolerance towards private media players.

Article 17 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which states that state
parties to the charter should, 'Ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates
to state controlled media during elections'. It is evident that should the current trend continue and
should elections take place, the ZANU PF controlled public media will initiate a total media blackout on
opposition parties, giving much airplay to ZANU PF.

Ahead of any election, The Coalition demands that the inclusive government, as part of their Road map
to Elections, particularly ZANU PF which seems to be in control of the media should work on;

1. Freeing the airwaves and allowing for the proliferation of new media players particularly in
the broadcasting sector.

2. Allowing the public media to operate freely and in the Public Interest, reflecting the
different shades of Zimbabwean public opinion. The Coalition demands that both the
national broadcaster and public newspapers be managed by professional journalists who
protect the interests of the general public without bias and pursuing partisan interests.

3. Halting and condemning all attacks on and intimidation of the private media by both state
security agents and political party activists

4. Repealing laws which hinder full and free operation of the media including the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA),
among other laws which are mimical to free media and full enjoyment of
information rights.

5. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) must be reconstituted urgently and
licensing of aspiring community and commercial broadcasters begins as an interim
measure to open up the airwaves ahead of elections.

6. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation, and the print media, must afford all
political parties and independent candidates contesting an election free access to
their broadcasting services in line with all the robust provisions of the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (Media Coverage of Elections) Regulations.

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