By Nkanyiso Ncube
THE University of Zimbabwe (UZ) Faculty of Arts Department of English and Media Studies organised a media and elections reporting conference aimed at ensuring journalists carry out their mandate in a responsible and ethical manner.
The workshop, which focused on the role of the media in elections in a democratic dispensation, brought together students, academics, representatives of diplomatic missions, government representatives and UZ Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura.
In his opening remarks, Dean of the Faculty of Arts Professor Itai Muhwati said journalists play a crucial role in the formation of public opinion in national processes and therefore it is crucial that they ensure a peaceful environment for the processes such as national elections.
Speaking at the same occasion, Professor Nyagura said journalism should be anchored on truth, empirical research and relevance to effectively empower communities’ decision-makers, the citizen of Zimbabwe and the global village.
Below we have compiled 10 things journalists are expected to do during election periods:
- The media should educate citizens through stories that adequately explain the national situation (political, social and economic) so that the citizenry will not only benefit from improved service delivery but will also take part in the development processes of the nation.
- The media should adequately encourage eligible persons to register as voters and to actually cast their ballot when elections are due.
- The media should provide a platform for all candidates and their parties to present their manifestos to the public.
- The media should expose parties and candidates that instigate or have the propensity to cause violence so that the citizenry may be made alert to any such possibility.
- The media may strive to expose instances where political parties threaten the functioning of democratic systems rather than support them and thus disenfranchise eligible voters.
- The media should strive to explain to the electorate, in clear and simple language, national, regional and universal pieces of legislation and other regulations governing the proper conduct of democratic elections.
- The media need to explain to the citizenry the importance of their participative involvement in all aspects of governance systems such as voting.
- Journalists should try to focus on the issues, by talking to ordinary people, particularly those lacking a strong voice in society e.g. the elderly and the young, women, the poor, and ethnic and religious minorities.
- The media must strive to put citizens’ views to candidates and report their responses back to the citizens so that they know and understand their potential governors.
- The media, in its agenda-setting role, can provide diverse viewpoints and unbiased information, offer a forum for debate involving citizens and the civil society, mediate in national development projects and contribute to the sustainable flow of information.