Friday, August 19, 2011

Public media bias worries National Democratic Institute

Public media bias worries National Democratic Institute
By Moses Kuwema
Fri 19 Aug. 2011, 11:53 CAT

THE blatant pro-government bias in the public media is of concern, says the National Democratic Institute (NDI). And NDI director of electoral programmes Pat Merloe said citizens, the media and political contestants had a right to verify all aspects of the election process, including independent verification of the vote tabulation.

During a briefing at Hotel InterContinental in Lusaka yesterday, delegation co-leader of the team that conducted a pre-election assessment of Zambia's preparations for the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections Quett Ketumile Masire recommended that the media, both public and private, should adhere to the provisions of the electoral code of conduct, laws and professional ethics concerning the accuracy, balance and access regarding candidates and broader electoral related coverage.

It was also noted that the bias and inaccurate reporting of all major
media are some of the shortcomings in the electoral environment which need
to be addressed.

Masire named other shortcomings in the electoral environment as instances
of political intimidation and potential for electoral related violence.

“Other shortcomings include irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric by
political parties and candidates, inadequacy of avenues for legal redress
when challenging results of the presidential election and the lack of
expedited processes for challenging efforts to discredit some non partisan
civil society organisations and impede the right to full participation.

Decrease in the number of women candidates for seats in the National
Assembly and apparent barriers to women pursuing candidatures and lack of
transparency in campaign financing and the absence of restrictions on
donations, as well as the unequal access to resources,” said Masire who is
former president of Botswana.

The delegation recommended that the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the
courts should ensure that expedited procedures were in place to process
all electoral-related complaints and challenges and inform the public and
the electoral contestants about such procedures and report publicly and
timely about how many such matters were lodged, the actions which were
taken and the nature and incidences of sanctions or remedies provided.

“The ECZ should guarantee access of political party agents, non-partisan
election monitors, observers and media to all aspects of the election
process, including vote tabulations and should provide them timely
accreditation, without undue restrictions. The ECZ should use every effort
possible to implement its enhanced results tabulation process and ensure
that political party polling agents, citizen election monitors, the media
are provided full access to each stage of the process, including providing
them copies of the signed results sheets at each level,” the team

And Merloe said elections were a way of people determining those who would
have the authority to represent them. He said the vote count should also be known to be accurate.

“Citizens have a right to know whether the elections are genuine because
elections belong to the people, it is their way of determining who is
going to have the authority to represent them and to know that the
election is genuine, the count must be known that it is accurate so in
that respect the media, citizens, the political contestants have a right
to verify all aspects of the election process including independent
verification of the vote tabulation,” Merloe said.

He said if the count was done and added together and corresponds with the
official results, there would be public confidence in the elections.
The delegation is made up of Masire, the former president of Botswana;
Thomas Daschle, former US Senate majority leader and vice chair of NDI’s
board of directors; Ayo Obe, chair of the Goree Institute’s board of trustees in Senegal and former president of the Civil Liberties Organization in Nigeria; Merloe; Keith Jennings, NDI’s senior associate and regional director for Southern and East Africa, and Xoliswa Sibeko, NDI’s resident director in South Africa.



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