MISA presses ZBC over political bias ahead of by-elections

HARARE – The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute for Southern Africa has written to the ZBC urging it to implement a court ruling and recommendations of election observer missions which called for neutrality and equal access for political parties.

In the January 21 letter, MISA director Tabani Moyo reminded the public broadcaster that “section 160 of the Electoral Act requires a public broadcaster to afford all political parties contesting elections such free access to its broadcasting services as may be prescribed.”

“It is in that regard that the High Court of Zimbabwe and several election observer missions came up with several recommendations on how the public media, ZBC and Zimpapers, should cover the country’s elections following the conclusion of Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonised elections,” Moyo said.

In June 2019, Justice Joseph Mafusire of the Harare High Court said ZBC and Zimpapers had fallen foul of the constitution with their partisan reporting.

Mafusire ordered ZBC and Zimpapers “to ensure their communications do not show bias in favour of one political party or its candidates and that they exercise impartiality and independence in their duties.

MISA says the ZBC has done nothing to comply, and worries that the ruling Zanu PF party’s rivals will be denied coverage in forthcoming by-elections on March 26 and general elections next year.

Media analyst Malvern Mkudu said: “ZBC must implement the court order as well as the recommendations in observer reports so that it complies with both the constitution and Electoral Act that prescribes how the broadcaster may conduct itself to ensure access to information for citizens and fair coverage to ensure voters make informed electoral decisions.

“We will have unending accusations of elections that are not credible and it can hurt the image of the country.”

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