Political parties and candidates in Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections have an immense responsibility to promote the rights of journalists and the media to operate without hindrance, as this will ensure access to diverse information for informed choices and decisions.
Promoting and respecting the rights of journalists goes a long way in ensuring their safety and security during political gatherings and events, as the media plays a fundamental role in democratisation, accountability and respect for human rights.
Reports by the NewsDay in its edition of 24 July 2023, quoting one of the candidates in the 2023 elections acknowledging the media as a critical component of democracy, is a welcome development.
Zanu PF local government candidate in the 2023 elections, Ivan Mbengo, made the remarks after youths reportedly aligned to his party stormed the venue of the meet your candidate press discussion in the eastern border town of Mutare.
The discussion, which comprised candidates of political parties contesting the 2023 elections, was being hosted by TellZim News.
The youths chased away Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Mutare Central constituency candidate Brian James from the meeting.
However, Mbengo, who is also a war veteran, pleaded for tolerance ahead of the August elections to achieve multiparty democracy.
Commending the media for giving all political parties a platform to share their ideas under one roof and promoting discussions on governance issues, he said:
“One of the pillars of democracy is the media, hence there must be freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Another pillar is the existence of opposition parties. They do not only exist, but they must exercise their rights to exist.”
This also comes after MISA Zimbabwe, held meetings with political parties and the police to ensure journalists operate without hindrance in fulfilment of their constitutionally protected duties while also ensuring their safety at political events.
MISA Zimbabwe therefore urges political parties to reign in their supporters and promote the rule of law as the media has the lawful responsibility of informing voters on their election campaign messages without hindrance.
Failure to do so impacts on the country’s democratic credentials and citizens’ right to diverse campaign messages for informed choices and decisions.