The Commission, in collaboration with UNDP held a one-day workshop on 22 April 2022 at Holiday Inn, Harare with social media practitioners. The workshop was held under the theme ‘Responsible Social Media Reporting for free, fair and credible elections’.
The workshop, sought among other issues, to engage social media houses and bloggers on electoral information dissemination, the functions of ZEC, consult them on the planned ZEC Data Protection Policy. It was also meant to discuss modalities of collaboration between social media practitioners and the Commission in future stakeholder engagements and information dissemination.
In his opening remarks, ZEC Deputy Chairperson Commissioner Rodney Kiwa underscored the importance of elections as means which people use to make choices about who should represent and lead them, as well as express their preferences on given policies. He further stressed that elections were not an event but a continuous cyclical process.
The Deputy Chairperson attributed election related conflicts and violence across the continent to a myriad of reasons, among them structural, institutional, legal, organizational and the media, especially social media. The workshop was about exploring the potential role social media partnering and collaborating with ZEC, can positively play in enhancing the country`s democratic trajectory.
Commissioner Kiwa acknowledged the positive role played by social media in social life and business but noted with concern its potential to destabilise and destroy social harmony and cohesion. He added that the abuse of this emergent media had the capacity to cause voter apathy thereby undermining democracy through peddling false narratives and half-truths.
He urged, social media players to be responsible citizens and to adhere to professional ethics and norms and to respect the country `s laws for the good of all as the country prepares for the 2023 harmonized elections.
Speaking at the same occasion, the Commission’s spokesperson, Commissioner Jasper Mangwana said the Commission is exploring ways of how social media can be regulated in order to curb misinformation and other forms of social media abuse.
The workshop was part of the Commission`s wider stakeholder engagement drive that seeks to impart knowledge on the electoral process. The idea to engage social media players was borne out of the realisation of its critical role in shaping narratives in real-time.
Participants were drawn from key stakeholders such as the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), mainstream media and the social media fraternity.
Some of the issues raised by the social media practitioners include the need to hold more similar interactions, the need for the commission to avail itself whenever it is required to furnish the social media practitioners with information and to explore possibilities of giving the social media practitioners advertisements on electoral issues.