The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is working towards finding ways to monitor and regulate New Media with regards to the covering of elections following revelations that there are no statutes governing election reporting by new media.
The ZEC team led by Chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba appeared before Parliamentary Committee on Media, ICT and Cyber Security on media reporting during elections where Justice Chigumba raised concerns over the unavailability of statutes to govern election reporting by new media.
By Pearson Mbendera
“The media monitoring committee will be working to find ways on how these new forms of media, broadcasting over the internet can be regulated,” said Justice Chigumba.
Justice Chigumba also expressed the importance of all media during an election period, which by definition runs from the moment the election date is proclaimed to the day the results are announced saying that the media helps voters make informed choices when voting.
New media refers to digital media that are interactive, incorporate two-way communication and involve some form of computing.
Online blogs aren’t required by law to be registered with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) for them to start dispensing news to the public, hence, the difficulty in ZEC regulating them as media and regulation statutes already in place were enacted before the proliferation of new media.
But journalists are required by law to register with ZMC before they can dispense information to the public. For election matters, journalists need to be accredited by ZEC so that they can have access to ZEC materials which includes polling stations, voting areas and other materials ZEC can provide access to.
With 60% of the registered voters being people below the age of 40, most of whom are active internet users, this year’s elections will be heavily covered online, making new media an integral part of the election reporting.
Several members of the parliament questioned the electoral body’s ability to monitor and regulate the media during elections. Commissioner DR. Qhubani Moyo said that ZEC had sufficient structures to monitor media reporting.
But with only 3 commissioners making up the media reporting committee, questions rise on whether ZEC has the ability to full monitor and regulate the media coverage of the elections.
Despite journalist accreditation, ZEC had already announced that no one, not even political parties will be given access to ZEC’s independent servers.
Members of the parliament recommended ZEC to reconsider the criteria of the accreditation process, especially with regards to journalist that were accredited to cover the BVR process, calling for ZEC to allow the same credentials to work during the election period.