THE Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) yesterday urged media practitioners to shun hate speech during coverage of political contestants ahead of the March 26 by-elections.

Addressing delegates at the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) engagement meeting on the role of the media in the electoral process, which was held in Harare, ZMC chairperson Ruby Magosvongwe said media polarisation was threatening to poison the electoral environment.

“News coverage has been consistent with activities on the ground by political parties. Political parties with more campaign activities continue to receive more coverage. But polarisation in the context of the print media is threatening to poison the electoral environment,” Magoshongwe said.

“There is rampant hate speech, inflammatory language with some abandonment of journalistic values and principles.”

Magosvongwe also castigated the lack of coverage of women and youth issues during election campaigns.

“There has been little coverage of women both as sources of news and subjects of electoral issues. The same can be said on the coverage of the youths.”

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) secretary-general Frederick Chiromba urged the media to bridge the gap between electorates and political candidates.

“Media should strive to afford all contesting political parties equal access to both private and public media by providing a platform for the political parties and candidates to communicate their message to the electorate, affording political party candidates to debate with each other and enable the citizens to communicate their concerns, opinions, and needs, to the parties/candidates,” Chiromba said.

CCJP national coordinator Paul Muchena who also spoke at the event said: “This meeting is being held against a backdrop of one of our key recommendations in the CCJP observation report for 2018 harmonized elections, which noted that equal media access to all contesting political parties could have provided voters with critical information for informed political choices.”

Muchena said the report observed that public and private media space was closed to other political parties. “It is therefore my hope that our deliberations will help us to find practical steps to promote equal access and fair media coverage of all political parties in electoral processes,” he said.

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