The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has praised the media for its general professional coverage of the recently ended elections, despite some concerns about the conduct of a few media houses.
Despite this praise, election observers and members of the opposition have urged state-controlled media to provide a platform for all voices and end its bias towards the ruling Zanu PF as this partiality has led to broken trust, as the media has an indispensable role in the proper functioning of a democracy.
Speaking at a discussion on the media’s performance during the Zimbabwean elections on Saturday hosted jointly by Tell Zimbabwe and the Bulawayo Media Centre, ZMC Commissioner Aleck Ncube stated no election in Zimbabwe has ever been covered in a more professional manner than the recently held elections.
“On behalf of the Zimbabwe Media Commission. I want to salute members of the Fourth Estate. I think we were so privileged to work with you before, during, and after the elections,” he said.
The commissioner attributed the media’s conduct to the ZMC’s training blitz carried out across the country.
“To make sure that journalists were prepared to report on elections, ZMC came up with the Elections Reporting and Peace Journalism Manual after noticing the media is very crucial when it comes to informing the electorate to make informed decisions,” he said.
“As ZMC we tried our best and we do not regret what we did. The results are there. There has never been an election in Zimbabwe which was covered in a more professional manner than the recently held elections.”
Commissioner Ncube acknowledged that all election observer reports mentioned concerns about the operations of state-controlled media, some private media houses, and social media news, but “the truth of the matter as ZMC, we are very much happy and humbled by the way the media conducted itself in terms of the election coverage.”
“The ZMC did its best to make sure we have a professional coverage of the elections and the peace journalism and election reporting manual we developed formed the basis,” he said, highlighting that veteran journalist Tapfuma Machakaire crisscrossed the country, training journalists how to remain professional.
Commissioner Ncube added that ZMC went a step further and engaged police not to harass journalists.
“Since police and journalists are at work, they must respect each other. We then came up with our press jackets, which became a feature in most of the election coverage,” he said, although he acknowledged some incidents where journalists were attacked.
“I am sorry, my sister -Annahstacia Ndlovu was beaten but these incidents were very minimal. As ZMC we actually stand up for all journalists to be professionally recognised as workers who must not be hindered in doing their work.”
He added that ZMC also took the National Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi in its engagements throughout the country.
“There was a better relationship with the police and other security agents in terms of how the journalists covered the elections and how they conducted their work without any hindrance before and after the elections,” said Commissioner Ncube.
“As ZMC we want to work with everyone, take on all views and then find each other. We look at best practices, we implement them and on behalf of the ZMC, hats off to all members of the media. You did a fantastic job.”
The commissioner added: “ We are happy and we want to build on that to make sure we have a media in Zimbabwe, which fully informs the electorate and citizens about the electoral processes and many other issues. But for the coverage of the elections, I want to salute you. You did a splendid job and we look forward to continuously engaging you.”
Meanwhile, Cowdray Park Member of Parliament, Pashor Raphael Sibanda, who spoke at the same engagement, stated that the opposition in Zimbabwe does not trust state media, notably the national broadcaster, because of its bias toward the ruling party, Zanu PF.
Sibanda claimed that trust and trust in state-controlled media had been shattered as a result of unfair framing and angling of articles that portrayed the opposition negatively.
“You know the story will be told in a different way, which builds on the already existing mistrust that is worsened by deep polarisation in the country and is seen or reflected in the media,” added the lawmaker.