A recent survey conducted by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) has revealed that the country’s ruling Zanu-PF party enjoyed the State broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) radio and television monopoly during the March 26 by-elections.
The survey indicates that ZBC provided live coverage for all eight Zanu-PF campaign rallies, which amounted to 630 minutes of airtime. However, the public broadcaster did not do any live coverage of opposition party political rallies, including those that contested the by-elections.
It further states that in ZBC news bulletins, Zanu-PF accounted for 90 per cent of airtime, which is 222 minutes, with the opposition parties sharing only 23 minutes.
According to Baz, ZBC’s action violated section 4 of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) regulations that provide for the electronic media to ensure that all contesting political parties or candidates are treated equitably in the allocation of airtime during broadcasting of electoral issues.
The report read, “It was observed that the public broadcaster ZBC, which consists of a television station and four national radio stations, covered the by-elections mainly through news bulletins.”
“ZBC allocated the ruling Zanu-PF party most of the airtime; for instance, for the flagship ZBC-TV, out of the 245 minutes of its news coverage, Zanu-PF got 222 minutes, which is 90 per cent of total news coverage, with other parties and candidates sharing 23 minutes which makes the 10 per cent remainder. There were fewer debates, interviews and manifestos, with manifesto programmes for all the contesting candidates.”
According to Baz, section 155 of the Constitution compels the State media to provide all political parties and candidates contesting an election fair and equal access to air and print space.
But opposition parties, mainly Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), have complained of a lack of access to the State media, which it said compromised the holding of a credible poll.
CCC leader Nelson Chamisa highlighted that ZBC coverage of the opposition party was biased.
“The last time I was on ZBC was when I was still in Parliament. They report about us every day, attacking and ridiculing us. Why don’t you give us a right to reply?” Chamisa said.
He also called for the Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, to investigate the situation.
Information and Publicity deputy minister Kindness Paradza said, “During elections, ZBC invites political players to air their content. They are allocated free time and advertising time, but some political parties are fly-by-night and do not have messages to air on the national broadcaster. Where they do have the content, it would not be up to the standard of ZBC but would be full of hate speech which ZBC will not air. We have also seen opposition parties chasing away reporters from the public media, so there is no way their messages could make it there.”