Mutare (New Ziana) – Media practitioners should familiarise themselves with the Electoral Act and the Constitution to be able to accurately inform the public so that it can make informed election-related decisions, an elections expert said on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) communications manager, Emilia Bundo said it was also important for the media to be conversant with electoral laws in neighbouring countries to be able to comment knowledgeably on related issues at home.
She said this at a media workshop here organised by the Zimbabwe Media Commision (ZMC) to sharpen journalists’ coverage of the August 23 elections.
“The media should also be familiar with the regional laws such as the SADC (Southern African Development Community) guidelines and principals on elections in order to compare with our own and see how we are faring,” Bundo said.
She cited, for example, the difference between the Zimbabwean and Botswana electoral laws on provision for assisted voting.
She noted that while in Zimbabwe the law provides for a voter who is illiterate to be assisted by a confidante to vote in the presence of a polling officer, in Botswana the one who assists should be a registered voter.
Bundo said it was also important for the media to explain the electoral cycle to enable the voters to understand when it starts and when it ends.
“The electorate does not want political reporting,” she said.
“Stakeholders want to hear about elections, the electoral cycle, what precedes what? The voters roll, requirements for registration, the Nomination Court, disqualification. Unpacking the overall electoral process.”
Bundo said the media has an important role to play in disseminating information and it is a platform for political campaigning.
She said the media should also know the important stakeholders involved in the various electoral processes and their different roles.
These include the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Registrar General’s department also known as the Civil Registry, whose roles are often confused when it comes to registration of voters.
It is also important for the media to cover the post-election events as cases of violence sometimes occur following the announcement of results, either as the winners celebrated or the winners protested.
“The media should also create an environment for the electorate to know their value and the consequences of their actions like not going to vote or engaging in political violence,” said Bundo.
Participants at the indaba generally agreed that stakes were high in the forthcoming general elections, and there was need for stakeholders to take proactive action to prevent incidences of political violence before, during and after voting.