The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has published the broadcasting schedule outlining how airtime will be allocated to different political parties during the upcoming general elections.
The schedule was published in The Herald of Friday, 28 July 2023, and subsequently emailed to those who had requested it.
On 17 July, MISA Zimbabwe wrote to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) requesting the schedule. MISA Zimbabwe then wrote a follow-up letter on 23 July, after which a schedule was published in the local newspapers.
The schedule is essential to effectively monitor how public media discharges its duties and if this is in keeping with provisions of the Constitution. Section 61 (4) (c) of the Constitution states that all state-owned media of communication must afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.
Furthermore, Section 160G of the Electoral Act adds that public broadcasters shall afford all political parties and independent candidates contesting an election such free access to their broadcasting services as may be prescribed.
To that end, MISA Zimbabwe appreciates the publication of the ZBC schedule on the coverage of political parties contesting elections.
However, in the future, MISA Zimbabwe recommends that ZBC be proactive in providing this information and should do so as closely as possible to the election proclamation date and the sitting of the Nomination Court.
To illustrate this further, MISA Zimbabwe notes that the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) on 5 June said that ZEC would be establishing a media monitoring committee, but the schedule was only published on 28 July, well after the election period had commenced in earnest and the sitting of the Nomination Court.
MISA Zimbabwe urges citizens to ensure that the public media adhere to the schedule and to utilise Statutory Instrument 33 of 2008 to lodge any complaints with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
The law says that aggrieved parties are entitled to a retraction within 48 hours of lodging a complaint.