The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe said in a report released Wednesday and presented to the diplomatic community that the ruling ZANU-PF party is “hijacking the public media” in the run-up to March 29 elections in violation of the law.
The non-governmental organization said state television during February devoted 202 minutes to ZANU-PF campaign activities in its main news bulletins, with 26 minutes of coverage given to independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni, a former senior ruling party official, and just nine minutes spent on opposition activities.
"For example," it stated, "on Friday, February 29, all of the (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's) stations abruptly suspended normal programming to provide live coverage of ZANU-PF's election manifesto launch, which, incredibly, lasted for four hours." This was preceded by pro-ruling party radio news spots.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper carried 54 positive stories on ZANU-PF and ran 24 neutral or negative stories on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. It ran 19 articles on Simba Makoni’s candidacy – all negative.
Amendments to the country's media law made earlier this year under the auspices of now-defunct crisis resolution talks between the ruling party and opposition said that state media should even-handedly cover political parties in election periods.
Media Monitoring Project Advocacy Coordinator Abel Chikomo told reporter Carole Gombakomba the problem is compounded by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which he said has failed to ensure equitable and fair coverage.
The non-governmental organization called on ZEC to "put an end to the intolerable bias demonstrated by ZBC and the government-controlled newspapers."