Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections held in August 2023 were conducted in a drastically improved media operating environment regarding journalists’ and media workers’ safety and security.
This is evidenced by the massive reduction in media freedom violations, which tend to spike during the country’s election campaign seasons.
Historically, Zimbabwe’s elections have generally been marred by increased media freedom violations, contributing to the country’s poor World Press Freedom Index rankings over the years.
These violations involve the unlawful arrests, assaults, and harassment of journalists by state and non-state actors, such as supporters of political parties.
Such violations impede the media from freely fulfilling its mandate during elections, compromising citizens’ ability to access information that enables them to make informed decisions and choices.
Hence, the safety and security of media workers is critical as citizens rely on unfettered media for credible and verifiable information to participate in elections freely.
It is with that in mind that MISA Zimbabwe, in conjunction with key stakeholders, took various steps and interventions to secure a conducive media operating environment ahead of Zimbabwe’s 2023 harmonised elections, resulting in the vastly improved safety and security environment for the country’s journalists and media workers.
Several meetings were held with the police and political parties to secure a conducive media operating environment ahead of the 2023 elections.
Further, in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Media Commission and UNESCO Regional Office Southern Africa, MISA engaged the media since the beginning of the year to re-commit to the ideals of professionalism while covering elections. This was drawn from MISA’s experiences in the Lesotho elections of 2022, where MISA Lesotho took leadership in mobilising the media to commit and recommit to professionalism while covering the election.
Zimbabwe’s media, comprising state-owned, private and community media, campus radio stations and freelance journalists, committed themselves to the highest ethical standards in the coverage of the 2023 elections.
Media advocacy groups and academics also appended their signatures to the Harmonised Elections Media Code of Conduct Pledge 2023 in Bulawayo on the 10th of August 2023. The pledge was endorsed by the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), political parties, Chapter 12 institutions and statutory bodies.