Media and Elections

Following the 2018 harmonised elections, electoral watchdog, the Zimbabwe Support Network (Zesn) expressed their recommendations on media and elections through the observer missions’ recommendations tracking project.

The Zesn petition notes that enforceable legal provisions on the regulation of the media reportage of elections must be enacted, and implemented, particularly for state media.

Zesn further added that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Authority (ZBA) must be transformed into a truly independent institution that effectively and impartially regulates public, private and community broadcasters.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) media monitoring must be timely and effective.

“It must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure compliance.

“The ZEC media monitoring report must be shared widely,” Zesn said in the report.

Zesn further urges that there must be mechanisms against hate speech and fake news on social media throughout the electoral cycle. The legal framework must also embrace media diversity and inclusion, Zesn says.

An assessment by Zesn further noted a number of media laws gazetted after the 2018 elections which include:

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [Chapter 10:27]: was repealed and replaced by three sets of legislation:

  • Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill,
  • Freedom of Information Bill
  • Protection of Personal Information Bill.

“There are various media laws that are under consideration. While the government has since gazetted the Freedom of Information Bill and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, it is regrettable that the two Bills were generally viewed as a far cry from meeting the country’s constitutional yardsticks as envisaged under Section 61 and 62 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information,” the Zesn report read.

“MISA Zimbabwe is of the view that Broadcasting Service Act (BSA) ‘requires extensive amendment’ and in addition the government needs ‘to institute and implement a practical ZBC turnaround strategy that will see the public broadcaster-ZBC- produce and broadcast modern, quality and relevant public interest programming,” the report said further.  

“The current licensing regime is viewed as prohibitive and service as a barrier to local commercial and private players with interest to take part in Zimbabwe’s media and broadcasting sector,” the report read further.

There is significant contestation on how progressive the new laws are. Concerns have also been raised by media practitioners. There is widespread view that work still needs to be done for our media laws to comply with the constitution and other regional and international instruments such as the African Charter on Broadcasting.