Opposition should also demand media reforms

Opposition should also demand media reforms

As the 2013 elections inch closer, the buzz word is electoral reform and other reforms that may impact on elections have seemingly been forgotten.

Source: Opposition should also demand media reforms – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 8, 2017

Comment: NewsDay Editor

While electoral reform is the most obvious, it seems the opposition is paying scant regard to issues such as media reform and they will be competing against Zanu PF, which would have had a five-year headstart with campaigning using State media.

If, for instance, electoral reforms were to be granted today, the opposition will still have trouble penetrating rural areas — where the majority live — as these people have been fed a diet of Zanu PF propaganda — through radio and television — for years.

If the opposition is to demand reforms, then it should demand holistic changes, rather than a piecemeal approach that will not help their cause.

There is no reason why Zanu PF still has a stranglehold on State media, particularly ZBC, when the Constitution demands that the station should be open to all Zimbabweans regardless of political affiliation.

Opposition parties have — four years since the new charter came into law — neglected to challenge Zanu PF’s hold on ZBC and have allowed the ruling party to have its cake and eat it too.

The only thing that has been forthcoming from the opposition was an ill-advised Constitutional Court challenge on the legality of paying television licences, which was bound to and ultimately failed.

But in the failure, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba all, but put the ball in the opposition’s court, with his ruling pointing out that ZBC was a public broadcaster and should be open to everyone.

The opposition failed to follow up on this and by the time they open their eyes to campaign for freeing of the airwaves ahead of the elections, it may be too late.

Zanu PF has been using ZBC for years for its campaign messages, with little coverage of the opposition and this will not be corrected by a few months of a handful of programmes carrying opposition content.

The opposition should have challenged Zanu PF’s stranglehold on ZBC right from 2013 and continued to pursue it until next year and if need be, should have approached the courts.

Electoral reforms are the holy grail, but these need to be supported by other reforms, as talking about levelling the political playing field on its own is woefully inadequate.

It is important for the opposition and civil society to spotlight all the areas that need reforms and make a concerted effort to make sure the government is listening.

Without media sector reforms, the electoral playing field is skewed, with or without electoral reforms.

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