BY EVANS MATHANDA
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) recently held a social media workshop with online content creators to discuss “responsible” reporting ahead of the 2023 election.
The workshop which ran under the theme, “Responsible social media reporting” was aimed at bringing the online content creators together as a way to dialogue with Zec on electoral reforms.
The digital space unlocked the gate for anyone with an opinion to share it with the public to promote democracy.
Social media platforms have created innovative spaces to ensure that the voices of the voiceless are heard, which is why some have said the new owner of Twitter Elon Musk might change a lot of features to promote freedom of expression.
Going against the grain, Zec is seeking a gag social media!
Female activists prefer to share their views on social media for fear of physical abuse.
But if control of information dissemination is regularised a lot of things could be left uncovered and this might hamper development of democracy in the country.
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Some online content creators had already predicted that Zec organised the social media workshop as a way to push the government to regulate the use of social media ahead of the 2023 election.
But why is Zec so scared of online content creators?
After all, Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba recently said the commission was not moved by civic society groups, media and individuals who are commenting about the commission’s handling of elections.
However, in a sudden turn of events Zec says it wants to reach out to Twitter and Facebook for an agreement to pull down what they call “damaging posts” about the 2023 elections.
The use of social media to disseminate information among citizens can promote political debates and issuing announcements during the 2023 harmonised election.
People cannot rely on print and television as the only source of information.
The future is digital. WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter are prominent social media platforms that are used to communicate with the public in Zimbabwe and other countries.
During the 2018 general election, Chigumba said social media was waging an “onslaught” because Zec is not the only institution to have complained about how social media was used irresponsibly.
However, the question still stands, can Twitter and Facebook agree to pull down what Zec calls “damaging posts” about its handling of elections just to accommodate the commission?
Zec must conduct elections in accordance with the laws, making sure that they hold free, fair and credible elections.
Zec must push for electoral reforms to meet regional standards.
Zec’s credibility is in tatters following the anomalies that were recently exposed by activists Team Pachedu exposing discrepancies in the voters roll.
Data experts uncovered irregularities in the voters roll, which included changes to 156 polling stations while 177 000 voters were relocated from their polling stations without their knowledge.
Team Pachedu and other online content creators have been consistent in telling the Zec’s fiasco on social media, but the commission has not given a clear response on such allegations.
No doubt, Zec is feeling the heat and calling on Parliament to regulate election-related material posted on social media ahead of the 2023 elections.
But if Zec has been doing what is right following the constitution as they claim, then why bother with social media reports?
As a commission, Zec should focus on restoring its credibility and stay away from roasting constitutional freedoms.
The electoral reform agenda is what Zec should amend and stop pushing for cyber bills that seek to silence online content creators.
The general citizens are concerned about electoral reforms to ensure that Zec’s is fully capacitated and the electoral law is aligned to the constitution and not silencing citizens.
- Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity. For feedback email: [email protected] or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19