Awards on election reporting handed out in Zimbabwe

Celebrating professionalism and credible reporting of the Zimbabwe 2018 general election. This was the aim of the Zimbabwe Election Reporting Awards, an award ceremony held 7 March by The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) in the capital of Harare

The awards marked the conclusion of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) election programme launched in February 2018. The programme was implemented by MAZ members in partnership with International Media Support (IMS) and with funding support from the European Union (EU) Delegation to Zimbabwe as well as the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Despite criticism, excellence in media exists

“Both the public and private media extensively played a crucial role in informing members of the public during the whole electoral cycle and allowed members of the public to make informed decisions when casting their vote”, said Mr. Nick Mangwana in a keynote address during the awards ceremony.

Nick Mangwana, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Service. Photo: VMCZ

Mr. Mangwana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Service, was representing the guest of honour, the Honourable Minister Monica Mutsvangwa.

Turning to the government’s media law reform agenda, Mr. Mangwana said that it is not the desire of government to control the media, emphasising that the constitution provides for regulation and not control.

He however chided editors for corruption and brown envelope journalism, which he said is detrimental to the media’s watchdog role.

Speaking at the same occasion, Irene Giribaldi, who is the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe’s Head of Co-operation, also emphasised the importance of media freedom to the EU in her remarks.

Irene Giribaldi, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe. Photo: VMCZ

“Media freedom and pluralism are pillars of democracy and instrumental to both inform citizens and hold authorities to account”, she said. Ms. Giribaldi also noted that while the media in Zimbabwe is often criticised for ethical lapses, these awards demonstrate that there is excellence in the media.

Entries from the entire country

Winners were awarded under four categories inclusive of: Best 2018 Election Reporter, Outstanding Gender and Marginalised Groups Reporter of The Year, Outstanding Rural Coverage Election Reporter of the Year and Online Election Reporter of the Year.

Blessed Mhlanga reporting for The Standard won the prize under the ‘Best 2018 Election Reporter’ for his article which went out of the ordinary to subject claims around the election voters’ roll to investigation.

Blessed Mhlanga from The Standard receives the prize under the ‘Best 2018 Election Reporter’. Photo: VMCZ

Veneranda Langa from NewsDay walked away with the prize under the ‘Outstanding and Marginalised Groups’ category for her three-part series investigation which was well-researched, balanced and comprehensively examined the issue of political violence against female political candidates during the elections.

The runner up in this category was Vusumuzi Dube from the Bulawayo-based Sunday News. His article took a human-interest approach in investigating and demonstrating how people living with disabilities are not adequately catered for at voting stations.

Gibson Mhaka from the Chronicle won under the category ‘Outstanding Rural Coverage Election Reporter of the Year’ for his investigation that took a unique and comparative approach in probing variances in voting patterns in two of the country’s southern region.

The panel of adjudicators however revealed that there was no award under the ‘Online Election Reporter of the Year’ as entries fell short of the investigative criteria.

The committee of adjudicators represented by veteran journalist Cris Chinaka, said entries were received from across the country and that there was a handful of some well-tackled stories. Chinaka however expressed the adjudicators’ concern on the quality of journalism reflected in the majority of entries.

“Our advice, if we may, is that every story deserves to be tackled as if it were a major story, demonstrating elements of investigation, research, fairness, balance and presentation. Journalists owe this basic approach to the profession and more importantly to the audiences they are seeking to serve”, he said.

He however noted the impact of the investigative journalism project implemented by the VMCZ as part of the elections project, saying, “there was a marked difference in the entries from participants who had been mentored through the VMCZ programme compared to submissions from journalists who had not been on the programme”.

VMCZ Board Chairperson Alec Muchadehama in his remarks expressed appreciation to the EU and other funding partners for their support for the project, emphasising the need for robust investigative journalism in the public interest especially during important national processes such as elections.

The umbrellas signify coming good times for the media in Zimbabwe. From left to Right: Mutasa South MP, Honourable Regai Tsunga, EU Programmes Manager Brenda Candries, Bulawayo Central MP Honourable Josphat Ngulube, Warren Park MP Shakespeare Honourable Hamauswa, and Mbizo MP Honourable Settlement Chikwinya. Photo: VMCZ