Legislators have criticised the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) demanding accreditation from media practitioners who want to cover elections and called for the scrapping of that requirement.
With the country set to hold its elections on 23 August, journalists both local and foreign will be required to apply for accreditation in order to be allowed to capture the proceedings.
Media organisations have in the past lobbied ZEC to do away with double accreditation since journalists register with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) to work in the country.
“Journalists should only be accredited by ZNC and ZEC should not demand accreditation from journalists,” said Matabeleland South Member of Parliament (MP), Sipho Mokone.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi also concurred that journalists should not be accredited twice.
“On the issue of journalists, I tend to agree that journalists are not observers. They are on duty and they are accredited by their media council. It means that you will be accrediting them twice and I have never seen an observer reporting from journalists. They are supposed to be governed by their rules and conditions as established by their council, and I agree that journalists should not be accredited twice,” he said.
Kuwadzana East Member of Parliament, Charlton Hwende said ZBC had a duty to cover all political parties.
“I do not understand your logic because the reason why ZBC is being singled out is because it is funded by taxpayers’ money. The reason why it is funded by taxpayers’ money is precisely for them to cover all political parties, kwete zvenyu zvamunoita zvekuti ZBC is only covering ZANU PF. They are not covering all other political parties and so forth,” said Hwende.
In addition, Kambuzuma MP, Willias Madzimure said if ZBC remains a state broadcaster, it cannot be allowed to align to a certain party.
Harare North MP, Allan Norman Markham said the media should abide by the allocation political parties have in parliament.
“The media should be forced to abide by the allocation we have in Parliament because it is logical that if we are one-third in Parliament, then one-third of the people who are invited for us, therefore we should be allowed one-third of the time on the State media. At the moment, it is totally used 100 percent as a propaganda piece,” he said.
However, Gutu South Legislator, Pupurai Togarepi said the state broadcaster should enjoy its freedom.
“I hear what the Honourable Members from the other side are saying but Herald or what they call State media is owned by ZIMPAPERS to do business and compete with other media houses. They go where they feel there is news. They cannot take everything and they cannot report on everything, even trash. So, if we are clamouring for freedom of the Press, we should also give them freedom to take news where they want,” said Togarepi.
Ziyambi however said it is not necessary to single out state media’s coverage of the elections.
“I also agree that the issue of ZBC being singled out to be impartial and what, we now have several media houses. I think that has fallen away because of technology and the times that we are in; it is not necessary to single out the State media during elections. There are several media houses and because of the advent of technology, there is no prejudice whatsoever,” he said.
He said ZBC should be allowed to behave like any other media house according to their way of working, adding that, “They should not be constrained to the rules set up by ZEC.”