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ZEC sets up committee to monitor journalists during elections

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has formed a committee to monitor journalists during the upcoming elections claiming it wants to ‘ensure that the media adheres to its regulations’.

Zimbabwe will hold by-elections on March 26, while general elections are expected next year.

Addressing journalists on Monday, ZEC spokesperson Joyce Kazembe announced that the monitoring committee would comprise members of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, and would be chaired by the electoral body.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is responsible for monitoring the media during election periods in terms of section 160 of the Electoral Act and Statutory Instrument (SI) 33 of 2008,” Kazembe said.

“This task is executed in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) for print media and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe for the electronic media. The law compels the commission to attach a report on media monitoring to all election reports submitted to Parliament.

“In compliance with the above provisions of the law, the commission has activated the media monitoring committee to monitor the coverage of the upcoming by-elections.

“The commission appeals to the media and political players to also adhere to the media regulations, SI 33 of 2008 in the coverage of by elections. Be prepared to be monitored and that implies proper behaviour as you are expected to behave yourself when covering the elections.”

Media lawyer Chris Mhike told NewsDay that ZEC’s move constituted over-regulation of media practitioners, adding that it could infringe on the freedom of journalists to gather and disseminate information.

“For a long time now, scores of media practitioners, and various Press freedom advocates have complained that the media in Zimbabwe is over-regulated.

“The most recent announcement by ZEC regarding the appointment of a media monitoring committee, is yet another clear confirmation that our electoral law is inimical to media freedom, and should, therefore, be amended, as a matter of urgency,” he told NewsDay.

“The electoral reforms that are long overdue within our jurisdiction include the enhancement of media freedom, partly through the drastic reduction of media regulators. Indeed, one of the key roles of the ZMC under the Constitution is to promote and enforce good practices and ethics in the media.

“The media monitoring role also forms part of the ZMC’s constitutional mandate. There is no good reason for the State to transfer these ZMC roles to Zec during electoral seasons.”

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director Loughty Dube said: “While Zec is allowed by law to regulate the media on electoral processes, its committee should be inclusive of State and independent media bodies and also other professional media bodies. When it only constitutes State media bodies, it raises questions on the body’s credibility and transparency issues.”

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