EU envoy slams partisan ZBC coverage

HARARE - A top European Union (EU) envoy in Harare has decried the partisan coverage of political events by State broadcaster ZBC saying it is still closed to opposition political players and does not reflect the new democratic trajectory espoused by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

This comes amid accusations that Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF continues to rely on the State-controlled media to promote political propaganda and restrict independent information about the party.

Speaking during the launch of a media and elections programme in Harare on Thursday, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe Van Damme said the publicly-funded State broadcaster must be impartial in its coverage ahead of the midyear election.

The media and elections programme is being implemented by Media Alliance of Zimbabwe and its technical partner, the International Media Support (IMS) with the support from EU and Norway’s ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The EU awarded the programme €850 000.

“As a diplomat, it is my duty to follow the news bulletins of the national broadcasters, wherever we serve. In some countries, this is an easier, sometimes even pleasant job. In others (like Zimbabwe) it is a more painful obligation,” Van Damme said.

“The 18th of November 2017 gave the impression of the start of a new era, openness, tolerance, mutual respect. This new spirit that president (Emmerson) Mnangagwa has been calling for is not yet reflected in the way the public media cover the domestic news. Their constitutional obligation to be impartial and to afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions has not yet been implemented.”

The EU and Zimbabwe are linked by the June 2000 Cotonou Agreement governing relations between the EU and former colonies in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The accord was designed as a partnership to help ACP countries compete on the global marketplace.

Through the Cotonou Agreement, the EU used to be a top trading partner with Zimbabwe, and was the source of two-thirds of the international aid that used to come into the country.

EU member States used to import an average of €750 million of goods each year from Zimbabwe.

But the Cotonou accord also had a fundamental political underpinning, from the European point of view, in terms of respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.

Failure to respect these principles by Zimbabwe led to sanctions being imposed, although the EU has now said it was prepared to review its policies towards Zimbabwe to support the Mnangagwa administration in implementing political and economic reforms that could revive the dying economy.

The 28-member bloc’s Foreign Affairs Council has  said the ongoing political transition in Zimbabwe creates high expectations among all Zimbabweans.

The EU has said it was concerned that local media was being constrained in their watchdog role by harsh economic conditions and sometimes also threats from politicians, wealthy or well-connected individuals under investigation.

Acting Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Simon Khaya Moyo concurred with the EU, but also noted with concern media polarisation which has been the hallmark of Zimbabwe’s media discourse, which he said had no room “under the new dispensation.”

“Currently, government through the ministry of Information is spearheading the digital broadcasting migration programme which slowly but surely, on account of limited resources, is gaining traction.

“Very soon, we shall be witnessing real positive change in breaking ZBC monopoly over our airwaves as new television players come on board,” he said.

Comments (3)

When someone who's been in govt for 37 years says "soon" he might be meaning 5 years. We need dates by which POSA & AIPPA are totally removed from the statutes not vague promises of "soon". The polarisation was caused by the same cabal currently in power they must sort it out.

Sagitarr - 3 February 2018

Opening up our economy and social landscape must entail doing away with the old restrictive policies and following up on implementing other genuine measures to break away from hangover on these old policies: namely; Empowerment and Indeginastion, POSA, AIPPA; SI 64 These measures were meant to support Kleptocracy and externiasaltion of wealth

Story Chokurongerwa - 23 March 2018

ZTV is likely to scuttle the good preparations made towards the elections because of its partisan broadcasts. What does it take if opposition parties are covered as well? Sometimes they will even discredit themselves to the public through what they say on TV.

cyclops - 29 March 2018

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