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Debunking electoral law. The Role of media

Political commentators and electoral stakeholders have implored for a fair and balanced media as Zimbabwe draws close to harmonised presidential, senatorial, parliamentary and local government elections to be held between July 26 and August 30.

An unbiased media is said to be crucial in the holding of free, fair and credible elections. In the previous elections, the media has been accused of picking sides, with the public media (government owned) largely viewed as a pro-ruling party while the independent media being accused of pushing for a regime change agenda.

Instead, it appears Parliament controlled by the ruling party which has two thirds majority prioritised the passing of the controversial Patriotic Bill, which variously closed the democratic space. The proclamation of the polling date before the passing of the Electoral Amendment Bill 2022 means that the amended Act should it be passed will no longer apply for the purposes of the 2023 elections. Legal expert Joy Nhidza said the law demands the media to be impartial.

“Media houses and journalists are required to make sure that their reportage on election are factually accurate, complete and fair. “In case of errors or inaccuracies, these should be rectified without delay and with due prominence”. Nhidza said in cognisant of the fact that some politicians may smear their counterparts during campaigns, media houses should give politicians the right to respond to allegations, despite their affiliation.

“Media houses and journalists are required to make sure that their reportage on election are factually accurate, complete and fair. “In case of errors or inaccuracies, these should be rectified without delay and with due prominence”. Nhidza said in cognisant of the fact that some politicians may smear their counterparts during campaigns, media houses should give politicians the right to respond to allegations, despite their affiliation.

The Act also stipulates for a clear distinction between factual reporting and editorial comment when it comes to elections while it prescribes for the media to desist from using “language that encourages racial, ethnic or religious prejudice or hatred; or encourages or incites violence; or is likely to lead to undue public contempt towards any political party, candidate or class of person in Zimbabwe”.