Local media warned against being overshadowed
Kadoma (New Ziana) -The local media should adequately prepare for the forthcoming harmonised elections to avoid being overshadowed by the foreign press, which is clamouring to cover the polls, an official has said.
Chief director in the Ministry of Information Jonathan Gandari said at a workshop to train journalists in covering elections which the Zimbabwe Media Commission organized.
Gandari said at least 50 international media organisations had applied to cover the August 23 general elections and had been granted permission to do so.
“There is a high appetite for media coverage of this election from the international media,” he said.
He said in the spirit of engagement and re-engagement, which the Second Republic adopted at its inception, the government granted all the applicants’ permission to cover the polls.
Some of the media organisations that applied include the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Cable News Network (CNN), the New York Times which said it would deploy its personnel from Africa as well as fly in its veterans from its headquarters, the New York Times, the Voice of America (VOA), the Associated Press, the Maverick, Al Jazeera, Channel Africa Radio and ARD German TV.
Gandari said most of the international media organisations were bringing sophisticated equipment such as drones and Outside Broadcasting (OB) Vans to beam live coverage to their countries.
“Our local journalists should not end up picking their stories and jumping on to their narratives since they have their own cultures and agendas which you do not understand,” he said.
He said local journalists should have more interest in the forthcoming elections since its processes and outcomes concern them more than foreigners, he said, adding they should therefore ensure they write stories that enable the electorate to make informed choices.
The local media should also strive to reach consensus on national values in order to cover the polls fairly, accurately and objectively, bearing in mind that they were providing a public service, explained Gandari.
Speaking at the same occasion, UNESCO regional director for Southern Africa Almin Yusuph urged the media to safeguard their own safety and security as they would be exposed to many risks.
He said elections can be volatile and unpredictable and media practitioners should take precautions to protect themselves and their colleagues.
“We urge law enforcement agents to protect journalists,” he said, adding the media should also be advocates for peace and non-violence during the elections.
The media has the tools such as pens, cameras and broadcasting studios to promote tolerance, diversity and dialogue among political contestants instead of focusing on negative stories.
“Remember there is life after elections and that you are not only journalists but citizens of this country,” said Yusuph.
Stakeholders are generally agreed that a lot is at stake in the August 23 elections, particularly between the two main contenders the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change.
The ruling party is determined to defend the gains of the protracted liberation war while the CCC is desperate to wrestle power to appease its Western funders and handlers who are becoming impatient with it and are withdrawing support.