Media’s role in peaceful development

Phillipa Jaja

In the lead-up to the 2023 harmonized elections, the media’s pivotal role in providing information cannot be underestimated.

 

From conveying details about political parties, candidates, and the electoral process to facilitating debates, explaining voting procedures, and addressing pertinent issues, the media holds immense importance.

 

Throughout this election period, media coverage has largely been commendable, marked by only minor glitches.

Recently, President Mnangagwa commended the media’s accuracy in narrating the Zimbabwean elections story during a rally in Bikita.

A significant aspect of media coverage during this period is the robust safety measures in place for both local and foreign journalists. Much of this can be attributed to the government and the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), which have formed partnerships with election stakeholders to ensure journalists’ safety.

“I can confidently state that the media is mentally and professionally prepared for election coverage, although this is hampered by the challenge of operating within limited budgets,” ZMC media commissioner Miriam Tose Majome said.

Media preparedness has not always been guaranteed in the lead-up to previous elections in the country. A report on media regulation, journalism safety, and security by MISA Zimbabwe highlights the repressive nature of the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

“Under AIPPA, several journalists and media workers were arrested while on duty, and newspapers such as the Daily News and The Tribune were banned in terms of the draconian law,” she said.

The safety and security of journalists cannot be emphasized enough. During elections, their role in providing credible and verifiable information is critical for citizens to make informed choices.

This factual information plays a role in reducing conflict, restoring trust, and instilling self-worth in a population recovering from or at the brink of violence.

Promoting peace development is a conscious decision that the media undertakes through factual reporting, fact-checking, impartiality, and inclusive programming that amplifies marginalized voices.

For instance, local radio station Power FM offers a platform for the public to satirize crucial bread-and-butter issues that impact voters.

Through creative programming, such as a viral audio segment by popular duo DJ Butterphly Phunk and Shugeta, the station encourages dialogue on electoral reforms and even addresses whimsical demands, sparking community engagement.

These initiatives provide structured spaces for communities to discuss potentially volatile subjects, allowing individuals at odds to release tensions through radio-mediated conversations.

When the media occupies grassroots spaces within civil society, it paves the way for free public discourse and community cohesion.

Ultimately, such endeavors contribute to the promotion of peace, which remains a cornerstone for progress in society.

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