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Home | ZimCrisis#85 -- Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe Report

Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 23:28:16 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#85 -- Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe Report
Cc: "South African government":;, "Foreign press":;

Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe

International Observers Condemn Election Media Coverage

Friday 7 July 2000

The international observers who reported on the media coverage of the recently ended parliamentary elections uniformly condemned Zimbabwe's state-controlled media. The publicly owned broadcasting service, ZBC, was particularly criticized for failing in its duty to provide Zimbabweans with fair, unbiased and balanced coverage of election issues. And although observers found different political views could be found in the country's newspapers, the state-controlled print media was also attacked for its partisan coverage in favour of the ruling party. Notably, the interim report of the Organization of African Unity observer mission did not address the issue of the media's election coverage. The report of the SADC Electoral Commissions Forum stated that it was unable to provide an analysis of the media's role in the pre-election period. South Africa's parliamentary observer mission has not produced a report so far.

Those missions that did comment on the media's election coverage included the European Union election observer mission, the Commonwealth observer team, the Australian parliamentary mission, and the Southern African Legal Assistance Network (SALAN) observer team. Most however, only dealt briefly with the issue. The Commonwealth report simply stated: "We note with concern the failure of the media, and notably the state-controlled broadcast media, to provide balanced pre- election coverage," its report said. The SALAN team also reported briefly on the media's election coverage: "There was a clear absence of an equal opportunity for all parties to win the support of the electorate. The state-owned media monopoly was biased towards affording the ruling party this opportunity alone," it said. The Australians note: "despite selective reporting in individual papers, varying political views were at least available in Zimbabwe's print media. However, non-government candidates had minimal access to both broadcast time and favourable reporting on Zimbabwe's electronic media".

The European Union mission provided the most detailed report. In its section dealing with the pre-election period and the campaign, the EU statement criticized the government- controlled media for failing to provide equal access to the political parties contesting the election. It said: "Both the public broadcaster, the ZBC and government controlled newspapers were used as publicity vehicles for ZANU PF. The ZBC failed to ensure informed political debate. Propaganda crowded out the real issues of the campaign. Opposition parties have had to rely on commercial media only."

Responding to a report that it never carried, ZBC television and radio news bulletins on June 27th carried a vehement denial that it had "failed to cover political parties", describing the EU statement as baseless. While ZBC did provide one 25-minute slot on television to each of the contesting political parties in the final days of the election campaign, no similar airtime was afforded to the contestants on any of the radio stations. But even in the television programmes, ZBC retained control by presenting them as discussions in which the presenters questioned the various party officials, thus directing the course of the debate.

ZBC provided extremely restricted direct access to the airwaves for the contesting political parties during the election campaign. The only direct access provided by the public broadcaster was a single 15-minute slot on television (divided into three five- minute presentations in English, Shona and Ndebele) for each political party to explain its policies. However, these were not broadcast on any of ZBC's radio stations, thus depriving millions of radio listeners of any exposure to their political options. This derogation of ZBC's duty to provide political parties access to the airwaves was particularly damaging to Zimbabweans' right to be informed, particularly for Zimbabwe's rural population, 62 percent of who depend on radio as their main source of public information.

ZANU PF was the only party to have its advertisements aired during this election campaign period. Its two adverts were flighted during television's 8 pm news bulletin on the eve of polling day. Radio and especially television news bulletins, were grossly biased in favour of the ruling party. Television particularly, was indeed used as a publicity vehicle for ZANU PF officials to present their views, coerce voters and vilify their political opponents, particularly the MDC, as figures compiled by the Media Monitoring Project confirm.

For previous alerts, and further information about MMPZ, please contact the Project Coordinator, 221 Fife Avenue, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 734207, 733486, 011716645, E- mail: monitors@icon.co.zw Web: http://www.icon.co.zw/mmpz Feel free to circulate this message.

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