The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has noted with concern the growing use of hate language by the media in the coverage of political activities in the run-up to the 26 March by-elections proclaimed by His Excellency the President on 6 January 2022. Hate journalism deepens polarisation and tension in our country.
The media and all consumers of news and information should note that Section 61 of the Constitution provides for the freedom of expression and that of the media. In that regard, the Commission continues to work closely with the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services and other stakeholders to facilitate a conducive environment for the realization and enjoyment of these freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution. The quest to create a conducive environment can be attained by constantly revisiting the legal instruments dealing with the media in the context of the reform process to align all legal instruments with the Constitution.
Similarly, the Constitution through Section 60 provides for the right to freedom of conscience which freedom includes the following:
- freedom of thought, opinion, religion or belief; and
- freedom to practice and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief; whether in public or in private whether alone or together with others.
In today’s world, these freedoms are expressed via various media platforms and during social and political events such as the current political contestations leading to the 26 March by-elections.
Whilst freedom of expression and freedom of the media are rights guaranteed by the Constitution, it must be noted that these rights are not absolute. The Constitution in Section 61 clearly states that freedom of expression and freedom of the media exclude the following:
- incitement to violence;
- advocacy of hatred or hate speech;
- malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity; or
- malicious or unwarranted breach of a person’s right to privacy.
The Commission has registered more than 180 mass media services to enjoy these freedoms but within the confines of the law. Although the industry is yet to come up with a national code to provide for breaches of professional conduct, all registered mass media services submitted internal codes with the Commission which they are required to comply with.
It is against this background that the Commission is calling upon all mass media services (print, broadcasting and digital platforms) to abide by the Constitutional provisions and their own codes in reporting the current electoral contestations for the benefit of readers, listeners and viewers as the electorate.
It is only when the media plays its role, as the fourth estate, in reporting factually, objectively and fairly on the current political events that the electorate can make informed choices. The people want to understand what each contesting party is offering and what contesting candidates are promising. The voting public needs to know and understand the electoral process for them to participate.
We call upon the media to desist from use of hate language, mudslinging, name calling, and character assassination. The Commission has noted that most of the news on the current political activities and environment are opinionated, twisted and contorted to suit the editorial slant of particular media houses. This is not only a disservice to the electorate and the electoral process, but a breach of both Constitutional provisions and professional ethics.
The Commission calls upon all media to abide by professional ethics and assist in the creation of a credible and peaceful electoral environment. It is in this way that the media as the fourth estate can meaningfully assist in driving Zimbabwe forward.
The Commission applauds those mass media services that continue to inform and educate the Zimbabwean voting public about the electoral processes and political contestations. It is the role that the media is expected to play in order promote and uphold democracy.
Issued 8 March 2021
For further information or enquiries please contact the following:
Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC)
Zimbabwe Media Commission House, 8 Swan Drive Alexandra Park, Harare.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org