Media coverage of the first ten days of the electoral period

/May 31 – June 9, 2018

Introduction

The media’s performance in the first 10 days of the election period has shown that the media remains unbalanced in the coverage of political parties and actors. There remain concerns on the nature of coverage, particularly issues around fair and balanced reporting; the media’s role in providing information to the public and professional conduct of the media in covering elections.

In assessing media performance in covering the first 10 days of the election period, Media Monitors assessed:

  • The level to which the media is fair and balanced in representing political players
  • The media’s election agenda and what they consider the most important electoral issues
  • The media’s professional conduct in reporting elections

Conclusion

Reporting trends in the monitored print and electronic media in the first ten days since the beginning of the electoral period have shown that the local media still have a long way to go before meeting the requisite standards of fair and equitable coverage as stated in Zimbabwe’s Electoral Act. The distribution of space and time among political parties and actors is still skewed in favour of two political parties, ZANU PF and MDC-T (NC) and MDC Alliance.

The media’s tone of coverage among the political parties appears to be polarised in favour of certain political parties. In the State-owned press which has a constitutional obligation to treat all parties fairly, ZANU PF has received more positive coverage whilst, the opposition parties have received coverage that is mostly neutral save for MDC-T (NC) and MDC Alliance whose coverage, is negative. In the private press, ZANU PF has received more negative coverage whilst MDC Alliance has received relatively more positive coverage. Partial reportage by the media is unethical as it defies ethics of journalism. It also diminishes the electorate’s trust in the news media.

Issues of fairness and balance not only address the representation of political actors; it also speaks to the representation of diverse groups in society who include women and youths. These two groups have been underrepresented in all the news platforms monitored. It is imperative that women and youth political actors receive equitable coverage in the media, as they are critical stakeholders in Zimbabwe’s political landscape.

The media should reconsider the publishing of hate speech to avoid perpetuating discrimination and intolerance.

In light of the above observations, Media Monitors notes that it is important for ZEC to develop an effective media monitoring mechanism that helps to keep track of the media’s adherence to the dictates of the Electoral Act. This would assist to address lapses in ethical coverage before they disadvantage political actors and members of the public who rely on the media for updates and interpretation of electoral processes.

Source: Media Monitors

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