ZBC clears air on elections coverage… lays bare CCC’s hostility

Public broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), has stressed that it remains objective and stands guided by the law of the land when it comes to coverage of next month’s elections, putting to bed assertions by the opposition CCC that its coverage had been “unconstitutional and biased”.

This follows accusations by CCC spokesperson Fadzai Mahere that the national broadcaster’s coverage was skewed in favour of Zanu PF, an allegation that ZBC has outrightly dismissed as “unfair” and unsubstantiated.

In a matter of fact, in March last year, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa declared that his party did not wish to be covered by public media as it had its own preferred media outlets.

Subsequently, the opposition’s candidates have gone on to spurn slots that have been allocated to it by the ZBC and its candidates have been refusing interviews, saying they had been barred by the party’s leadership.

In sharp contrast to their allegations, Chamisa, the CCC presidential candidate, and his party have on numerous occasions been covered by ZBC since the commencement of the electoral period and according to laws and statutes governing the media, notwithstanding hostility from the opposition outfit.

In a statement to allay the opposition’s allegations yesterday, ZBC’s chief executive Ms Adelaide Chikunguru said contrary to the allegations, the national broadcaster was committed to “equitable” distribution of media coverage to all political players.

She said the ZBC’s conduct and coverage was guided by the laws of the land, including the Electoral Act and the Constitution, particularly the section that guarantees freedom of speech and commands State-owned media to determine independently their editorial content and to be impartial and provide a fair opportunity for divergent views and dissenting opinions.

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

“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, at 8pm on 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.” 

Ms Chikunguru gave more instances where the CCC had been given coverage by the national broadcaster.

The opposition’s hostility towards the ZBC, she said, had not deterred them from pursuing to offer them coverage.

“On the day of the nomination court, Wednesday 21 June, ZBC News covered and aired a story that featured CCC president Mr Nelson Chamisa commenting about the nomination process,” said Ms Chikunguru. “The following day 22 June, again Mr Chamisa was on the news commenting about double candidates.

“The CCC Official launch rally in Gweru on 16 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 platforms 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.”

Ms Chikunguru said a considerable number of the CCC’s candidates had vehemently denied interviews and coverage.

These include: CCC’s deputy spokesperson Gift Ostallos on June 12 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). 

“The ZBC is also in possession of 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,” said Ms Chikunguru.

Contrary to the allegations, said Ms Chikunguru, other political parties had been accorded coverage and been beneficiaries of commercial content discounts.

“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,” she said.

“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 but to date the national broadcaster is yet to receive any such from the CCC.”

Herald

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