A LOCAL media watchdog has accused most media houses in the country of biased reporting and failing to give equal coverage to smaller political parties and independent candidates in the just-ended by-elections held on June 10.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), in its survey conducted between April 16 and June 12, noted failure by most media houses to report fairly to enable citizens to “to make informed decisions before, during and after the polls as well as provide candidates a platform to put their policies and positions across”.
A total of 124 stories made up the sample, the MMPZ indicated, noting that the coverage was biased in favour of Zanu PF with the ruling party constituting 68% of the voices of candidates quoted during the electoral period.
“Despite the MDC parties’ pull-out, 11 other parties took part in the election. The other parties and independent candidates were significantly under-represented as sources of information, as they collectively represented just 32% voices of election candidates.
This under-representation of other political players on the Zimbabwean scene calls into question the fairness of coverage of political players and limits the ability of citizens to make informed decisions about who they would want to govern them,” the MMPZ noted.
The media watchdog said this ran against the new Constitution that says “all political parties and candidates are treated equitably in the news media, in regard to the extent, timing and prominence of the coverage accorded to them . . .”
“As a result of the media’s skewed coverage candidates from smaller parties were not able to adequately canvass for votes through the media,” the MMPZ added.
Women were under-represented in the news coverage of the elections, constituting 20% out of the 240 sources quoted by the media, the media watchdog said.
“Since women are equal players in the electoral process, the lopsided sourcing patterns displayed in the media not only ignore the journalistic principle of balance and fairness but also undermines the spirit of the new Constitution which promotes gender equality and Section 80 (1-3) specifically calling for the ‘equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities’ between women and men.”