THE Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Zimbabwe has written to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) urging the electoral body to partner with civil society to strengthen its media monitoring role ahead of the July 30 general elections.
In a letter to Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba dated June 13 2018 which was copied to Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, Misa Zimbabwe national chairperson Golden Maunganidze said they were concerned about the Media Monitoring Committee which, in terms of the law, must be set up to monitor media coverage during election periods.
“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has a mandate in terms of Section 160K (1) of the Electoral Act to monitor media coverage during election periods. According to the ZEC Roadmap for 2018 harmonised elections, this will be through the Media Monitoring Committee that was scheduled to be established on the 10th of June 2018,” Maunganidze wrote.
He said it was advisable for Zec to partner with other stakeholders in the media because the election body does not have specialised knowledge of media-related issues.
Maunganidze said that it will be futile for Zec to invite the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Media Commission to monitor the media during the election as both bodies do not have sitting commissioners or board members.
“The absence of a valid BAZ Board was acknowledged in September 2017 by the High Court in the matter between Dr Dish v Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and Obert Muganyura, HH 598-17. In that matter, the court unequivocally stated that BAZ has no board. The ZMC is in a similar predicament after the terms of ZMC’s previous commissioners expired in 2015,” Maunganidze said.
“Although interviews to replace the commissioners were held no appointments were made. No reasons have been given for the delay in appointing commissioners to the board. In the meantime, and to the best of our knowledge, no appointments have been made since then.”
He added that section 160K (3) states that Zec’s media monitoring role does not exclude any other entities from monitoring media coverage during election periods, pointing out that this section acknowledges the existence of other stakeholders who can assist in monitoring media coverage during elections.
“MISA Zimbabwe therefore, takes this opportunity to urge ZEC to consider partnering with stakeholders from civil society that have the experience and expertise to monitor media coverage during election periods,” Maunganidze said.
“Such a partnership would enhance ZEC’s abilities and boost confidence in the transparency and public confidence in the media monitoring process during this year’s elections.”
Media reforms have been one of the contentious issues ahead of next month’s elections. Concerns have been raised by opposition parties over partisan media coverage by the public media.