AS the Electoral Commission of Zambia puts in place systems for ensuring the forthcoming August 2016 general elections are credible, free and fair, one of the platforms they will need is the media.
The media are essential to democracy. In fact, a democratic election is impossible without media. The media, especially community radio, will be at the forefront of informing and educating the electorate, ensuring that the rules and regulations of this elections are well explained and abided by, and ensuring fairness by providing platforms to politicians from across the divide to campaign.
The role of the media in a general election like the one to be held in August includes among others, enabling full public participation in elections through educating voters on how to exercise their democratic rights, reporting on the development of an election campaign, providing a platform for the political parties and candidates to communicate their message to the electorate and allowing the parties and candidates to debate with each other. Others roles include providing a platform for the public to communicate their concerns, opinions, and needs, to the parties/candidates, the government, and to other voters, and timely reporting of results and monitoring vote the counting.
A free and fair election is not only about the freedom to vote and the knowledge of how to cast a ballot, but also about a participatory process where voters engage in public debate and have adequate information about parties, policies, candidates and the election process itself in order to make informed choices. Elections therefore constitute a basic challenge for the media to ensure that citizens and all electoral stakeholders get timely, accurate and unbiased information. This puts the media’s impartiality and objectivity to the test.
With less than six months to go before the August general elections, the Zambian media carries a huge responsibility of keeping the citizenry and voters abreast of the current events and raising awareness of various issues and developments.