Media and Elections

  • Enforceable legal provisions on the regulation of the media reportage of elections must be enacted, and implemented, particularly for the state media.
  • The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Authority (ZBA) must be transformed into a truly independent institution that effectively and impartially regulates public, private and community broadcasters.
  • ZEC media monitoring must be timely and effective. It must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure compliance. The ZEC media monitoring report must be shared widely.
  • There must be mechanisms against hate speech and fake news on social media throughout the electoral cycle. The legal framework must also embrace media diversity and inclusion.
  •  
    Assessment:
    A number of media laws were gazetted after the 2018 elections. These include:

  • The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [Chapter 10:27]: was repealed and replaced by three sets of legislation :
  • (a) Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill,
    (b) Freedom of Information Bill, and
    (c) Protection of Personal Information Bill.

    There are various media laws that are under consideration. While the government has since gazetted the Freedom of Information Bill and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, it is regrettable that the two Bills were generally viewed as a far cry from meeting the country’s constitutional yardsticks as envisaged under Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information[1].

    MISA Zimbabwe is of the view that the Broadcasting Service Act (BSA) “requires extensive amendment” and in addition the government needs “to institute and implement a practical ZBC turnaround strategy that will see the public broadcaster (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation) produce and broadcast modern, quality and relevant public interest programming”[2] .

    The current licensing regime is viewed as prohibitive and service as a barrier to local commercial and private players with interest to take part in Zimbabwe’s media and broadcasting sector. The licensing fees need to be reviewed in line with section 61 (3) of the Constitution which stipulates that Broadcasting and other electronic media of communication have freedom of establishment subject only to State licensing procedures that;  (a) are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of signal distribution; and (b) are independent of control by government or by political or commercial interests.

    Statutory Instrument 33 or 2008[3] requires journalist already registered with the Zimbabwe Media Commission to re-register with the ZEC during an election. This makes it expensive for free-lance journalists and media houses to get their journalists accredited to cover elections.

    Download Full Report

    [1] Misa Zimbabwe State of the media 2019 report < https://zimbabwe.misa.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2020/01/State-of-the-media-report-2019-MISA-Zimbabwe.pdf>

    [2] https://zimbabwe.misa.org/2020/02/12/zimbabwes-broadcasting-services-act-requires-extensive-amendment/

    [3] http://archive.kubatana.net/html/archive/legisl/080616zec1.asp?sector=ELEC&year=2008&range_start=211

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