Radio stations too close to Zanu PF

Source: Radio stations too close to Zanu PF – DailyNews Live

Maxwell Sibanda      4 July 2017

HARARE – While local radio stations will be the conduit for delivering
political parties’ campaign messages ahead of the 2018 elections as they
have a wider reach, there are others who feel most of the prominent
stations are closely linked to the state and ruling Zanu PF party.

Analysts and observers are skeptical because Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation (ZBC), which has four radio stations, and Zimpapers – with two
radio stations (Star FM and Diamond FM) – all belong to the State while AB
Communications owned by ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira has three stations
(ZiFM Stereo, Faya FM and Gogogoi FM).

Kingstons Trading, another State enterprise, operates Nyaminyami FM in
Kariba and KE 100.4 FM in Harare.

With elections around the corner, will these radio stations give equal
space to contesting political parties as espoused in the Constitution of

Zimpapers Group Public Relations and Corporate Affairs manager Beatrice
Tonhodzayi said the Broadcasting Services Act clearly states that all
political parties must be given equal opportunities when it comes to
election advertising.

Zimpapers owns a national and a regional station; Star FM and Diamond FM

“Our radio stations are guided by the law when it comes to election
advertising. However; this kicks in only when the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (Zec) has communicated the political parties that are
participating in an election and when they declare the election dates.
Thus; we shall stand guided.

“On the issue of censorship, the law, according to the Broadcasting
Services Act, says that we may not edit or alter any advertisement
submitted for transmission.

“However, it is important to note that the Broadcasting Services Act also
allows room for stations to reject advertisements provided reasons are

“This is key; because; as a business, we have our own policies that guide
us in terms of what we air and what we do not. That means we can use our
discretion around political advertising as we do with all other
advertisements,” said Tonhodzayi.

ZiFM stereo executive Susan Makore concurred: “The guidelines are clear
from Zec and during election period they guide broadcasters on how to
conduct advertising during election. Broadcasters are guided by that.”

The Daily News spoke to a number of analysts on important radio was to
shaping the 2018 election.

Media practitioner Tabani Moyo said Zimbabwe; by its construct, is a radio
nation as it is the most accessible medium of communication in the

“This is mainly because of its cost effective nature. However, we are
equally aware of the balance of forces in terms of ownership and how it
might compromise impartial reporting ahead of the elections.

“However, given the fact that the bulk of the stations are commercial in
outlook, they must think sustainability and avoid the trap of focusing on
narrow political reportage,” said Moyo.

He added though that the most profound is that State-owned radio stations
have a constitutional obligation to be impartial, fair and give equal
access to all political parties.

“In this regard, Zec should move with speed to request for the schedule of
their programming way in time in line with the constitutional provisions.

“The end result in all this is the need for the radio stations to invest
in high quality programmes, reach and competitiveness,” said Moyo.

Political commentator Vivid Gwede said radio stations have a good chance
of being very relevant for the next election only if they give people all
sides of the story.

“Our political dialogue as well as our prospects for development can be
more enriched if these stations cover our elections without bias.

“But then one has to look at the ownership which is what can influence
editorial policy, there appears that most stations, if not all, have links
with the ruling party.

“There is a likelihood that people who look forward to fair coverage of
all parties will be disappointed because he who pays the piper calls the
tune,” said Gwede.

Legislator Jessie Majome said her worry is that radio stations will not
give the opposition equal or fair coverage during the elections as they
are all either State-owned, controlled or aligned.

“Media freedom guaranteed by section 61 of the Constitution is more
necessary than ever. I don’t see Zec having the muscle or spine to enforce
the Constitution’s requirement for equal campaign coverage.

“Sadly, the Constitutional Court decided in my ZBC case to maintain ZBC’s
ruling party bias.”

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe staffer Faith Ndlovu said: “Radio, by
virtue of its wide reach, will definitely be influential in terms of
covering the elections, especially in marginalised communities that don’t
have access to the infrastructure for television or newspapers.

“These communities are also negatively affected by the digital divide.

“Public media have a responsibility to offer equitable, fair, balanced and
accurate coverage of contesting parties and other information around the
electoral process, so adherence to the standards and principles of
professional journalistic practice is critical.

“On the other end, privately-owned radio stations also have a
responsibility to ensure that they provide fair and accurate coverage of
the electoral process and contesting parties despite what they might
consider to be their preferred candidates and parties.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said ZBC controls four radio stations that are
essentially pro-Zanu PF and rabidly anti-opposition; particularly the
MDC-led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

“We have two so-called private radio stations that are basically an
extension of the ZBC radio stations. If you listen to the news bulletins
of these two so-called private radio stations, then you will get to know
that they are actually competing with ZBC radio stations to be pro-Zanu

“Radio is, no doubt, a very powerful tool of mass communication because it
can reach many corners of the country faster than newspapers, for
instance,” said Gutu.

He added that they were not banking upon the Zanu PF government relaxing
its tight grip on the electronic media.

“As such, we are exploring other alternative means of communicating our
message to the people of Zimbabwe.

“Social media is the new game in town. More people are relying on social
media for news instead of tuning in to the six national radio stations
that operate in Zimbabwe.”

Arts practitioner Josh Nyapimbi said: “Coverage is unlikely to improve as
has always been the case where it’s made available it will be paid for and
heavily censored.”