Zimbabwe: Mass media

Updated July 2013

See also: EISA 2002 The Media in Zimbabwe.

Background

Extracted from: Susan Booysen and Lucien Toulou 2009 "Chapter 15: Zimbabwe" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 643.

The state-controlled Herald and Chronicle, the Sunday Mail and Sunday News are used regularly to propagate government and ruling party policies and propaganda and to attack government opponents, both domestic and foreign. Government opponents are rarely featured in the state-controlled print media, except in a negative manner or when reporting news of their arrests or when they are attacked by government officials or their surrogates. According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), political violence seems to be encouraged by what have been described as hate messages that are carried out in the state media, particularly the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the country's main daily paper, The Herald. The state media has also been said to be used to propagate hate messages against minorities and incite hatred against a selected group of inconvenient individuals. According to the same institute, the state media hardly makes mention of any activities carried out by the opposition, and, when it does, it is invariably in derogatory terms, projecting opposition leaders and their supporters as unpatriotic sell-outs, subversive elements seeking to overthrow the government and instigators of violence (Media Institute of Southern Africa 2004).

The only publicity for the opposition is found in the privately owned Daily News, now the country's leading daily newspaper; in the weekly, privately owned Independent and Financial Gazette, and in the privately owned Sunday Standard. This imbalance of the media coverage of the electoral process was echoed in 2008 by observers, who noted particularly the "overwhelming lack of access to the public media by the opposition" (PAP 2008, 2). According to the Pan-African Parliament Observer Mission, "the ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] failed to ensure that there was "reasonable access to the media" by both parties. "Regrettably, the State-controlled media was used as a vehicle to discredit the opposition candidate in all forms" ( Media Institute of Southern Africa 2004).

Zimbabwe Media Commission

Zimbabwe Media Commission is established by the Constitution 2013, 248-250) to uphold, promote and develop freedom of the media and promote and enforce good practices and ethics in the media. It is required by Electoral Act, 160K, to assist the ZEC, at its request, to monitor the Zimbabwean media during elections to ensure that political parties, candidates, broadcasters, print publishers and journalists observe the provisions of the Electoral Act.

Campaigning provisions

By law every party has the right to reasonable access to the media and public broadcasters must give all political parties and independent candidates free access to their services as prescribed in regulations made by the ZEC with the approval of the Minister (Electoral Act, 3(c)(4); Electoral Act, 160E-160K). The regulations must specify total time to be allocated to each and the areas and time periods when broadcasts may be made; the allocations must be fair and provide all with a reasonable opportunity to present their views. If media agencies accept political advertisements they must afford all actors the same terms. The media is governed by a code and the ZEC must monitor the media and ensure compliance with it. Needless to say, as indicated by Booysens and Toulou above, these provisions have not been implemented or enforced in the past.

News websites

Chronicle, [www] http://www.chronicle.co.zw/index.aspx [English]

Financial Gazette, [www] http://www.fingaz.co.zw/ [English]

Herald, [www] http://www.herald.co.zw/index.aspx [English]

NewZimbabwe.com, [www] http://www.newzimbabwe.com/ [English]

Standard, [www] http://www.zimbabwestandard.com/ [English]

SW Radio Africa, [www] http://www.swradioafrica.com/ [English]

Zimbabwejournalists.com, [www] http://www.zimbabwejournalists.com/ [English]

ZimOnline, [www] http://www.zimonline.co.za/ [English]

Zimbabwean, [www] http://www.zimbabwean.co.uk/ [English]

Zimbabwe Independent, [www] http://www.thezimbabweindependent.com/ [English]

References

ELECTORAL ACT CHAPTER 2:13, incorporates all amendments until SI 85/2013, [www] http://www.veritaszim.net/sites/veritas_d/files/Electoral%20Act%20consolidated%20as%20at%2022%20June%202013.docx [MS Word] (accessed 24 Jul 2013).

Media Institute of Southern Africa. 2004. Report of the Fact Finding Mission to Zimbabwe, Part I, Electoral Process in Zimbabwe, [www] http://www.misa.org/downloads/Zim_final_Report.doc [MS Word document] (accessed 30 Mar 2010).

PAP 2008 "The Pan-African Parliament Election Observer Mission to the Presidential Run-off and Parliamentary By-Elections in Zimbabwe 2008: Interim statement", 29 June, [www] http://www.pan-africanparliament.org/Controls/Documents.aspx?DID=1029 [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 10 Mar 2010).