‘Social media is the most accessible medium of information’ 

Source: ‘Social media is the most accessible medium of information’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe

BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
A RECENT study by Media Monitors has revealed that social media, particularly the WhatsApp platform is the most accessible medium of information in Zimbabwe, ahead of print and broadcast media.

The study titled Analysis of Community Media and Information needs on Governance and Development Issues was done in four provinces of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Harare and Mashonaland Central from April 2020 to April 2021, through funding from the European Union and the International Media Support.

“All community members surveyed indicated that social media was the most accessible medium compared to print, broadcast or other ways of getting information such as community meetings,” the Media Monitors report read.

“Lack of electricity in different communities was cited as one of the main barriers in accessing radio and television. Limited or delayed distribution of newspapers in the communities reduced their accessibility to communities as well. WhatsApp was considered the most accessible platform, although the high cost of data bundles was cited as a hindrance.”

“Lack of electricity in different communities was cited as one of the main barriers in accessing radio and television. Limited or delayed distribution of newspapers in the communities reduced their accessibility to communities as well. WhatsApp was considered the most accessible platform, although the high cost of data bundles was cited as a hindrance.”

According to the report, participants in the four provinces indicated that media coverage of service delivery among other issues affecting communities was poor.

In Mashonaland West, participants noted that issues relevant to their communities were usually covered in community news platforms.

“The residents also noted that on Facebook, there are groups where issues affecting the provinces are discussed. For Mashonaland Central participants noted that social media is more reliable to cater for informal sector issues and service delivery concerns. They pointed out that access to mainstream news, especially from print media is delayed compared to social media as issues are dealt with in real time.”

While politicians and community leaders are said to have indicated that their interests are represented 80% of the time, residents and community-based organisations revealed that their interests were not given much coverage.

Representation of CBOs and community residents was 25% and 32%, respectively.

Health reports, especially COVID-19 stories were also said to have been hugely prioritised in 2020 and 2021, while women voices only constituted 24% of news reports.

Mashonaland West is said to have featured the most female voices at 43%, compared to Mashonaland West at 18%, and Mashonaland Central at 18%.

The report said the media continued to use stereotypical or insensitive language when describing marginalised groups including women.

Zimbabwe Media Commission commissioner Susan Makore said the issue of women under-representation in the media needed to be rectified as they made up over 52% of the population.

“We also understand that most news outlets in this country have male editors. We need to have a serious conversation with the editors to see how we can tackle this,” Makore said.

The Standard editor Kholwani Nyathi said media outlets concentrate on urban centric news because they could not afford to send reporters in the rural areas owing to resource constraints.

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