Media highly polarised on Zimbabwe elections

15 Aug 2013 07:20
By Charles Tjatindi
WINDHOEK, 15 AUG (NAMPA) - Media coverage during the recent Zimbabwe Harmonised Election of 31 July has raised a lot of eyebrows, with many observer missions lamenting the high polarisation of media outlets during that period.
Both the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Zimbabwe Media Commission has accredited 804 journalists and other media practitioners to cover the elections which had attracted global attention. About 400 of that number were local journalists based in Zimbabwe.
Various observer missions in Zimbabwe during the period of the elections made note of a ‘highly polarised media’ in covering news items relating to the elections.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which had the largest number of observers in Zimbabwe, found in its preliminary report that most news items involving the top two main contenders in the presidency race – President Robert Mugabe and his challenger Morgan Tsvangirai – were largely tilted either in favour or against the candidate depending on the publication.
There was virtually no coverage for the other political parties and independent candidates who participated in the National Assembly elections, as well as for the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP) candidates who contested in the presidential elections.
The observer mission for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the African Union, and the SADC Electoral Commission Forum all took note of the difference in media reports, which they referred to it as having “made it difficult for ordinary people to follow the election due to the high extent of media polarisation”.
Lately, the Namibia Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (Nangof) Trust also pronounced itself on the issue, noting that such situations made it difficult for the observers to obtain reliable information.
Nangof said media coverage for political parties was polarised despite the ZEC having in place a committee responsible for ensuring equitable media coverage. State media campaigned for ZANU-PF, while the majority of independent newspapers supported the MDC-T.
“This made it difficult for observers to obtain reliable information about the elections,” it said in a media statement on Monday.
Zimbabwean ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) won the polls with an overwhelming majority which gave it a two-third majority in parliament.
Outgoing Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, whose Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party suffered its heaviest defeat to the ruling Zanu-PF, has taken to Zimbabwean courts to have the election results nullified.