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ZBC responds to elections coverage complaints by CCC

We publish below a response to claims by Citizens Coalition for Change Spokesperson Ms Fadzai Mahere to the effect that ZBC reporting is unconstitutional and in favour of ZANU PF

ZBC Election Coverage

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation notes with concern a statement released by the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Ms Fadzai Mahere.

The statement dated 25 July 2023 has serious allegations to the effect that the ZBC in particular has failed to comply with the law in the coverage of the 2023 General election.

The ZBC is alive to the fact that it is a National Broadcaster and its elections coverage is guided by the laws of the land in this case, The Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) and the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment number 20 of 2013 of particular note Section 61.

The ZBC appreciates that according to the Electoral Act, the election season runs from the day of the Proclamation of the election dates until the day of the inauguration of the winner of the Presidential election.

In this case, our election season began on Wednesday the 31st of May 2023 and will end on the day of the inauguration of the Presidential winner.

Guided by the Electoral Act that requires the National Broadcaster to ‘equitably’ distribute free airtime to contesting political parties, on the Proclamation Day, the ZBC had a news story aired on the Main News (8pm television) and other bulletins including all the six radio stations under the ZBC stable namely, Radio Zimbabwe, National FM, Power FM, Classic 263, Khulumani FM and Central Radio.

The story featured the three main political parties at that stage namely CCC, MDC A and ZANU PF. From the CCC it was Fadzai Mahere who spoke on behalf of her party. (ZBC Main News bulletins are a matter of public record and can be viewed on ZBC News Online stream on Facebook as the bulletins are streamed).

On the day of the nomination Court i.e Wednesday the 21st of June, ZBC News covered and aired a story that featured CCC President Mr. Nelson Chamisa commenting about the nomination process. The following day 22 June, again Mr. Chamisa was on the news commenting about double candidates.

Current Affairs

The ZBC has availed three election programmes for political parties namely, The Candidate, The Manifesto and Constituency Indaba. All Presidential candidates are free to present their Manifestos and also be interviewed on “The Candidate”. Aspiring legislators can also be featured on The Constituency Indaba though regrettably some have refused to take part.

Recording of these programmes is underway while others have already been aired. There are 11 Presidential candidates and possibly 12 and the National Broadcaster cannot change this schedule by saying CCC President must be the first or second. Every candidate has the same rights and when the dates according to the schedule come, indeed Mr. Nelson Chamisa will be invited to present his Manifesto and be featured on ‘The Candidate’
All these programmes are on television and Zbc’s six radio stations.

News Reports

Guided by the laws, Zbc News reporters across the country have put in deliberate efforts to speak to all contesting candidates. Some have agreed while others have refused. Among the CCC candidates those who agreed and were covered include Mr. Febion Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi (Mabvuku National Assembly) on 5 July 2023, Mr. Jastone Mazhale (Gwanda-Tshitaudze), Lynette Karenyi (Chikanga) with stories being aired on 13 July 2023. Nicola Watson for Bulawayo South was covered on 15 July 2023.

The CCC Official launch rally in Gweru on the 16th of July was also covered and flighted by ZBC on the same day with the party President Mr. Nelson Chamisa being featured. The following day 17 July 2023, Mr. Chamisa was also featured speaking about the land reform, a story aired on all ZBC news bulletins. On 19 July 2023, Party spokesperson Ms Fadzai Mahere was featured commenting on double candidates. Other CCC officials featured on the ZBC plattforms also include Mr. Vusa Moyo (Hwange West), Mr. Clifford Hlatshwayo (Chipinge South), Mr. Josiah Makombe (Gweru Urban), Ropafadzo Makumire (Chiredzi Central), Mathew Mlambo (Chipinge East) among others.

However the following CCC candidates refused to speak to ZBC: Gift Ostallos (12 June 2023), Discent Collins-Bajila (Emakhandeni/Luveve), Obert Manduna (Nketa), Chidaushe Emmanuel (Chivi North), Makotose Peter Alexios (Chivi Central), Patrick Mugwambi (Shamva South), Mavis Maringisanwa (Shamva North), Patrick Dube (Gwanda South), Desire Nkala (Gwanda North), Chinembiri Muchengeti (Chikomba East), Emmanuel Punungwe (Chikomba West), Douglas Gumbo (Chiredzi South), Petias Manyika (Mt Darwin East) and Lovemore Dhlumo (Chipinge Central) among others.

The ZBC is also in possession of some audio recordings with the candidates refusing to speak to our news crews. Mr. Petias Manyika (CCC candidate for Mt Darwin East told the ZBC News that their party has made a decision not to speak with the ZBC. This statement has however not stopped the ZBC from seeking interviews from other CCC candidates. The ZBC as a National Broadcaster respects the journalistic ethics such as fairness, accuracy, balance, objectivity and confidentiality of sources but also respects the rights of individuals not to speak to the media.

Editorial independence

It is also important to note that the ZBC is independent and has a competent editorial team that understands what to publish and how to publish it. Even an election season doesn’t take away this editorial independence that is provided for by the Constitution of Zimbabwe Section 61 (4) ‘All state-owned media of communication are:
(a) free to determine the editorial content of their broadcasts or other communications’ The Supreme law of the land thus gives the ZBC editorial independence to decide what and how to publish though. Section 61 (5) of the Constitution also gives ZBC the basis of its editorial policy.

Commercial Content

According to the law, ZBC is mandated with offering political parties a discount of 30 percent during prime time. Other political parties have submitted their advertisements and to date the National Broadcaster is yet to receive any such from the CCC.

No right is absolute

All content including the commercial content is subject to editorial scrutiny as provided by the law in section 61 of the constitution of Zimbabwe.
61(5) ‘Freedom of expression and freedom of the media excludes- (a) Incitement to violence (b) Advocacy of hatred or hate speech (c) Malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity (d) Malicious unwarranted breach of a person’s right to privacy
As the Constitution provides, we therefore urge political players not to use hate speech, misinformation among others as this cannot be broadcast on ZBC platforms.

While it is understood that elections are an emotive subject and that the campaign is hot and might cause frustrations, it is however unfair to vent these frustrations on the ZBC.

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