FORMER Education minister and MDC Alliance Bulawayo East parliamentarian aspirant, David Coltart says the forthcoming elections will be fundamentally flawed as long as the state media continues to breach section 61 of the constitution which compels all government controlled media to be apolitical and non–partisan.
He was speaking at a Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) organised election reporting workshop in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
Coltart said the state owned media such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), The Herald and The Chronicle were in violation of sub section 4 of section 61 of the constitution which clearly states that all state media should be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts and other communications.
“ZBC and everything in the Zimpapers group has to be constitutionally compliant. That means they cannot have a bias in favour of one party or one candidate. They are breaching the constitution and the laws of the land and that is a serious thing. There cannot be free and fair elections as long as these fundamental provisions in the constitution are breached,” said Coltart.
The veteran politician said while the state owned media is required at law to objectively and fairly cover all political parties, the independent media is not included in the constitution.
“I have heard the argument that, well the Herald supports Zanu PF but Newsday and Daily News support other opposition parties. That’s not what the constitution says. Zanu PF has got its own publications which are supporting its partisan line. So often I feel as if I am shouting on a brick wall on this issue because unfortunately this culture has deeply crept into our nation,” he said.
Coltart said during his recent MDC Alliance trip to the UK, he met several top politicians and key London government officials and he emphasised the need and importance of independent television plurality ahead of the elections.
“As you know, I was in Britain last week and I met fellow politicians and MPs from throughout the world such as South Africa and Sweden. I asked them can you imagine a general election in your countries where there is no independent television station and the only television station promotes one party. Not only does it promote one party, it denigrates all other political parties. They were all shocked,” he said.
“I said to British MPs, can you imagine if the BBC was a conservative television station and no other radio and television stations? Would you say that would have been a free and fair election and they all laughed,” he added.