ERC in call for media input in situation room

By Nkosana Dlamini

THE Election Resource Centre (ERC) has invited journalists to become part of its situation room, which aims to increase accountability around the country’s electoral processes.

A situation room is a recent initiative by the poll based watchdog to create a central system for stakeholders to both report and glean election based information and updates.

Its creation coincided with the launch of the biometric voter registration (bvr) exercise September 2017.

Following its launch, ERC encouraged citizens to file complaints into a toll-free call centre managed by the group.

This helped the NGO buttress its poll based advocacy as well confront authorities with empirical evidence over electoral misdemeanors by both administrators and political players.

Addressing dozens of journalists at a capacity building workshop in Gweru on Thursday, ERC Communications and Advocacy officer, Tatenda Mazarura (pictured) said the involvement of the media in its situation room would allow journalists a hassle free access to authentic and verified information around elections.

She said it will also grant the media improved access to decision makers around the country’s poll processes.

Local journalists have often complained about dealing with uncooperative State authorities when seeking comments to their stories.

Solomon Bobosibunu, in charge of ERC’s training and outreach, said the workshop was aimed at encouraging as well as capacitating local journalists with the relevant tools to exhaust the country’s complex electoral story.

This comes after the local media has, for different reasons, shied away from reporting about technical issues relating to how poll processes and laws are administered in a country which has seen violent conflict during elections.

The fear of delving into difficult subjects around elections has often seen journalists turn to the easier and mostly sensational side of election reporting dominated by quarrels among political players.

Bobosibunu said the workshop was also aimed at harnessing the influence of the media in efforts to bring the authorities to account on poll processes.

“We also realise that journalists can also help in pushing the agenda for advocacy; the things that we want changed, things that we want improved in the electoral processes.

“So we cannot do without journalists…they have a platform and a followership and they can take it to their members so that everything that we are doing is people centred.”

Participants were drawn from an array of specialties within the country’s vast media space.

These include those from print, broadcasting, online, citizen journalism, creative arts and new media.

Zimbabwe goes to the polls in July this year amid renewed enthusiasm among citizens to take part in their country’s harmonised elections.

But apart from the interest, it has emerged that most citizens, particularly those based in rural areas, have little knowledge around the process. This has created space for unscrupulous politicians to manipulate the citizens to their advantage.

Gary Murambiwa
the authorGary Murambiwa