‘Upcoming polls are about restoring international relations, legitimacy’

George Charamba

THIS year’s elections go beyond the contestations of political parties as they are about restoring international reengagement and legitimacy, permanent secretary for Information Media and Broadcasting Services, Mr George Charamba has said.

Addressing participants to a media and election reporting training workshop here yesterday, Mr Charamba said the Government did not reckon that the elections are contests between the ruling party Zanu-PF and other parties.

“This election is about restoring international reengagement and legitimacy, that is where we are. It must be flawless, it must be transparent, it must be free, it must be fair, it must meet international standards, it must be violence-free and therefore it must be universally endorsed because it is an instrument of foreign policy,” said Mr Charamba.

“It’s about re-engagement and legitimacy, we are playing politics at a higher level.”

Mr Charamba said it was the duty of the local media to report on the forthcoming polls in a manner that respects, upholds the national interests and not subordinate themselves to influences of foreign media houses.

“Your messaging will be in competition within your own ranks and also the outsider which immediately begs a relational issue. What I have found very humiliating about your industry is how you are made to chase stories and claims that come from without in respect of a country which you yourself are not only resident but do cover, that I have never understood,” said Mr Charamba.

“Why do you deflower a national eye, it’s a brazen admission that we come second to the outsider.”

Mr Charamba said such acts makes one a junior to a person who could be half as qualified as the local journalist.

He called on the local media to follow the Kenyan example at the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta where the country’s media not only covered politicians but also the coverage by foreign media and refused to be instigated by foreign interests.

Mr Charamba said it was the duty of the media to consider national interests in the reportage of the polls as journalists do not owe it to any political party, but the country.

He said a distinctive feature in the 2018 polls was that political players with a media hyper consciousness, will skilfully bypass the media in reaching audiences, a phenomenon that will see the media fighting for relevance.

He said it was the duty of the media therefore, to report objectively and respect the sanctity of facts.

“All hell breaks loose if you allege murder where life lives. The facts must be sacred,” said Mr Charamba.

He said it was accepted in politics that where facts are respected and interpretation differs, the various media houses would be jockeying for readers.

Mr Charamba reiterated that during the election period, after proclamation of dates by the President, the reportage by all media houses on elections would fall under Zec.

He commended the skilful way of handling information in the public sector by the police and Zec.

“For me what is critical in Zec from a communication point of view is this unprecedented capacity to react to a story within its news cycle which means the response is instantaneous so you won’t get away with it,” he said.

Mr Charamba also commended the self-regulation by the media and its stance against errant media regardless of media house.

He said there was a shift in the attitudes of voluntary media organisations than in olden times where some of them blindly defended some media houses.

The two-day workshop which started on Thursday was organised by Zec and the Zimbabwe Media Commission in collaboration with the Electoral Institute for Sustaining Democracy in Africa.

In her closing remarks Zec Commissioner Joyce Kazembe also highlighted the need for professional, objective reporting by the media in covering elections.