In his heads of argument filed at the Constitutional Court on Monday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has claimed that there was no media bias ahead of the July 30 harmonised elections. Mnangagwa argues that MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was happy with the coverage and goes on to say that there is no evidence of bias. An excerpt from his heads of arguments reads,
…the extent to which media had an influence over the manner in which people voted has not been established. The applicant’s conclusion remains conjectural. This is not evidence, quite apart from the fact that this allegation is not pleaded with sufficient particularity to constitute the requisite jurisdictional facts. The 23rd respondent (Zec) and the Zimbabwe Media Commission have the statutory mandate to monitor media coverage during an election, s160H-K of the Electoral Act.
If the applicant had genuine complaints against the media coverage of the election in question, he would have lodged complaints with both the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the 23″ respondent before the election, (see 5190 of the Electoral Act). He would have provided evidence of such complaints. He has not done so. He has not done so because such evidence does not exist. He has not done so because he was happy with the coverage and access he received, not just from what he calls the State media, but from all media houses both internal and external.
This ground cannot be sustained. It had no effect on the results.
However, most election observer mission highlighted the fact that there was strong media bias, particularly from state-owned media publications. The European Union Election Observer Mission in its media monitoring preliminary report said,
Media operated in a generally free environment, but overwhelming bias in state media meant legal provisions for fair and balanced reporting were not respected The media landscape in Zimbabwe is largely dominated by state-owned or controlled media, with very little presence of the private sector. Allocation of broadcasting licenses has so far benefitted only radio stations directly or indirectly linked to the government and community radio stations are still to be licensed.
….EU EOM media monitoring14 shows biased coverage by the state-owned media in favour of the ruling party, which received a total of 84.9%, 81.8% and 76.5% of election-related coverage (airtime) on ZTV, Radio Zimbabwe and Classic 263, respectively. Qualitatively, 44.5%, 14.4% and 10.2% of that coverage were reports portraying ZANU-PF in a positive tone, while 47%, 20% and 26.5% of the coverage was received by MDC-Alliance in the aforementioned media was reports in a negative tone.
Full Text: Though Election Was An Improvement, It Has Failed To Meet The Mark: American Observers IRI/NDI