MEDIA freedom is not only a fundamental right, but a basic necessity for a multi-party democracy to thrive and bloom.
Southern Eye Editorial
It is equally true that there is no democracy without elections and there are no credible polls without a free public media that gives equal opportunities to contesting parties and candidates.
Since the campaign for the July 31 polls started over a fortnight ago, Zimbabweans are realising that we are living in a surreal world where the public broadcaster has adamantly declined to embrace fairness and balance in its election coverage.
President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are enjoying massive live coverage of their rallies across the country on ZBC TV and radio stations, while his opponents, among them MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC president Welshman Ncube, are not accorded the same coverage.
Mugabe’s opponents are covered scantly on ZBC TV and radio stations and at most times not articulating their manifestos, but being ridiculed as agents of the United States and the West bent on promoting gay rights and instigating regime change, as if regime change is evil.
There are absolutely no equal opportunities granted to all participating political parties in terms of their support sizes and appeal.
ZBC TV and radio stations have been turned into Mugabe and Zanu PF mouthpieces, much to the chagrin of the electorate and the doctrine of fair play. This is abuse of public assets to further the interest of one party and at the expense of others.
It is against the Sadc guidelines on democratic elections and we wonder why the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is mum on the abuse of the national broadcaster. ZBC TV and radio stations need to be reined in by Zec for failure to give equal opportunities to all parties and candidates.
To add insult to injury, the national broadcaster is at the forefront of promoting hate speech against opponents of Mugabe.
Advertisements flighted on television and radio stations denigrate the personalities of Mugabe’s opponents, especially Tsvangirai, who is caricatured as an adulterer, a gay supporter, puppet and agent of imperialism.
The advertisements do not promote national unity and cohesion, but hatred. We were of the view that election campaigning is all about selling policies to the electorate, not character assassination.
Zec should monitor thoroughly ZBC TV and radio stations’ programming that is promoting disunity and may spark civil unrest if not checked and appropriate action taken against the national broadcaster.
The behaviour of the national broadcaster vindicates progressive Zimbabweans who were demanding media reforms before the elections. We are worried that the public media has not turned the corner and still behaves as an extension of Zanu PF’s information department. This has to be stopped now to level the playing field ahead of the election next Wednesday.
For that to happen, Zec has to awaken from its deep slumber and rein the national broadcaster.