EISA AND ZEC-EISA conducted a two day intensive training workshop on election reporting for the public and private media on 30th to 31st October 2012. A total of 45 participants consisting of 39 males and 6 females were drawn from the print and electronic media. These included the Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) Alpha Media Holdings; the Financial Gazette; Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, which runs four radio and two television stations. Freelance journalists were also invited to participate at the workshop.
The journalists' skills in reporting on the pre-election, polling and post-election phases of the electoral process were sharpened through this workshop. The journalists were also introduced to international instruments pertaining to the regulation of the role of the media in elections as well as to media ethics by Mr. Blessing Jonah, a media expert from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and two internationally renowned media experts. These were Dr. Raymond Louw who holds many positions in South Africa including Deputy Chairman of the Media Freedom Committee of the South African National Editors' Forum, Vice President of PEN South Africa, Chairman of Misa- SA, Council Member of the Freedom of Expression Institute of SA and Chairman of the SA Press Council and Dr. Joe Thloloe who is South Africa's Press Ombudsman. In addition, ZEC used the opportunity to update workshop participants on the contents of the Electoral Amendment Act 2012 which came into effect recently.
On 20 July 2012 EISA held a successful roundtable table between the Executives and Editors of all media houses in Zimbabwe at the ZEC Head office. The meeting was also attended by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ). This was the first meeting of this kind and it has contributed positively to the building of strong relationships between the media and ZEC. The meeting looked into among other questions: (a) What is the role of the Media in a polarised political environment such as in Zimbabwe? (b) How can the media balance between its duty to inform and its business interests? Put otherwise, what needs to be done to ensure that the Media fulfils its mandate and complies with media ethics instead of focusing on "headline driven news" in pursuance of profits?
Following discussions on the role of the media in elections and the identification of problematic areas in this regard, concrete proposals were tabled and agreed on. For example:
ZEC has also been invited by the Zim papers to utilised airtime on its newly opened radio station for voter education. There will be a meeting on how this is to be done including the frequency of the programmes ZEC may come up with.