Media Capture Stifles Journalistic Autonomy In Zim Election Coverage – Experts

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THE subject of media capture and how it impacts negatively in achieving fair, balanced election reporting will feature prominently at the two-day Zimbabwe Media Stakeholders Conference which begins Wednesday in Harare.

By John Masuku

A robust discussion featuring  politicians and media analysts is expected to follow the presentation of a paper titled “Media capture During Elections In Zimbabwe And The Requisite Interventions” by Faith Ndlovu, programme officer at the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe(VMCZ)  and recent graduate in media capture studies at the Central European University (CEU) summer university  in Budapest, Hungary.

Ndlovu will define the phenomenon and how it has manifested itself locally and worldwide over the years.

Academically defined as a state in which the media have not succeeded in becoming autonomous in upholding a will of their own, nor able to exercise their main function, notably of informing people but have persisted with vested interests of both government and private players, media capture is a potential threat to balanced and fair election coverage.

“In the Zimbabwean media context, capture happens on the editorial and reporting fronts. Factional capture in terms of political party squabbles in our main political parties is now very evident especially in the public media and extremely worrisome as we head towards 2018 elections. In the corporate sector, capture is usually promoted by those with financial clout. We have also seen media shunning being critical towards organisations that can withdraw their advertising and sponsorship,” said Loughty Dube, executive director of VMCZ.

Media capture is considered a serious danger for capacity skills training, confidence building and the nurturing of responsible, accountable media houses as it compromises the serving of a larger public.

The space of professionalism gets dominated by political spin doctors who work flat out to influence the electorate with propaganda, observes Chris Chinaka, a renowned media trainer and veteran journalist.

On gender mainstreaming, Abigail Gamanya , national director of Gender Media Connect (GMC), formerly Federation of African Media Women (FAMWZ) points out that another casualty during elections, the environment becomes so patriarchal and polarised  leaving women sidelined and marginalised.

“It’s usually survival of the fittest”, argues Gamanya, who adds: “unfortunately, the fittest and eventual winners are men only.”

Organised annually by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), a network of media support organisations, this year’s stakeholders conference is expected to make concrete recommendations to fight the menace of media capture including ensuring the independence of regulatory bodies from political and private interests as well as ensuring strong self regulation and professionalisation of the media as resistance to capture.-VOP