No media reforms, no elections

The Global Political Agreement requires, among other things, that media reforms be instituted in order to allow equal access to state-owned and controlled print and electronic media. To date, this has not been done and is unlikely to be implemented prior to the holding of elections next year.

Some months ago, following complaints from the two MDC formations represented in Parliament, the three principals in the inclusive government gave very clear instructions to the minister of Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, to comply with the GPA and implement media reforms. In his own wisdom, Shamu decided to defy the principals by simply ignoring their instruction. This may be because he received contrary instructions from the supposedly defunct Joint Operations Command which is effectively running this country. The JOC now meets secretly to avoid being criticized in media circles.

Political parties in this country that are not Zanu (PF) would be unwise to agree to hold the next elections before media reforms are fully implemented. A look at the ZTV main news bulletin will reveal that the news is all about Zanu (PF) and nothing or very little about any other political party. The only exception is when there is something negative and embarrassing to report. It is evident that the ZTV reporters have strict instructions not to cover anything that the MDC-T, for example, does or says.

A case in point is the unfortunate passing and burial of an MDC-T deputy minister, Mudzingwa. Although the Herald had a small column that reported on his passing, it did not cover his burial. The ZTV did not report at all on both his passing and burial. President Mugabe did not send any condolences to the family either, otherwise this would have been reported by both the electronic and print media.

If elections are held before media reforms have been implemented, this will be the order of the day in terms of reporting on the activities of the contesting political parties. Information is critical for political parties during election times. It will not be possible for them to make use of foreign-based radio stations to inform the electorate about what they are saying and doing.

In other words, their campaign strategies will be severely constrained. Zanu (PF) will, obviously,dominate the use of ZTV and all the radio channels as it is currently doing. Independent print media will not be able to cover all the activities of these other political parties. Besides, the readership of some of these papers is considerably limited compared to that of state-controlled papers. ZTV continues its nauseating programmes presented by the likes of Mahoso, Chivaura and other like-minded people. Recently, they have been lambasting Copac for ignoring the people’s views in the process of constitution writing.

This is obviously fiction since Copac has dutifully incorporated everything that the people said during the outreach meetings. The fact that people said things that some political quarters are not comfortable with does not mean that Copac has rejected their views and is writing what the people did not say.

Unfortunately, Copac does not have alternative media through which to state the truth as some of us know it. This same situation could be the lot of opposition parties should elections be held before media reforms have been instituted. The time to agitate for these reforms is now, not a few weeks before campaigning begins. Those who have ears let them hear. A better Zimbabwe is inevitable.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *