Media training enhances the quality of election coverage.

April 2, 2024

For Toneo Rutsito aged 39, a journalist with TechMag TV, participating in ZIMECO2 media training significantly improved his expertise in election coverage and professional conduct during the 2023 Harmonized Elections. The skills in election coverage enabled Toneo to identify hate speech and fake news aptly. After participating in the pilot media training implemented through a partnership with UNESCO and the Zimbabwe Media Commission, Toneo became a trainer in successive media training sessions. 

“I received knowledge that equipped me to become a trainer of other journalists. The training enlightened me on how to practice responsible journalism, empowering me to provide fair election coverage of political party rallies without discriminating against anyone. I also refrained from transmitting fake news and hate speech,” he said.

In the past, many journalists feared violence while in the line of duty, which hampered their freedom to gather and disseminate information during elections. This affected media practitioners and contributed to less information for the electorate, who relied on journalists to make informed decisions about the election process.

Toneo Rutsito covering the Presidential Inuaguration on 4/9/2023: (c) TegMagTv

”Our safety as media practitioners has generally been an issue of concern during elections. However, because of the media training, we now work effectively with police officers to ensure our safety during potentially violent environments. On numerous occasions, we have been able to work effectively with police officers when gathering news content. I appreciate the ZIMECO2 Project for empowering journalists. I hope that we will have future training on artificial intelligence and social media use so that we can continue to improve our election coverage work in digitally changing environments,” added Toneo.

Another journalist, Hopeworth Ndige Kasambabedzi expressed his gratitude towards ZIM-ECO2’s media training, saying that it equipped him with journalistic skills, enabling him to conduct fair and balanced news interviews.  
“As a citizen journalist, I had never covered an election before and did not know about election reporting. The training equipped me with journalistic skills on how to conduct fair and balanced interviews. This experience enabled me to have a better understanding of electoral processes and to analyse political developments. I am now using the skills in my day-to-day work." 

Echoing the same sentiments, Khesani Matatise a news reporter with Avuxeni Community Radio cited that media training improved the station’s news content to be more factual and accurate.  
“Because of the training, our community radio operations have significantly improved. We are now reporting more factual and accurate news stories. The community now appreciates our in-depth content on various topics. The positive change of our news content is a result of the media training.”
Through the UNDP ZIMECO2 support, 900 media professionals across the country received training on media professionalism and election reporting. The training contributed to a conducive media operating environment and improved media coverage of the 2023 Harmonized Elections as commended by one Election Observer Mission report. 

ZIM-ECO2 also facilitated the engagement of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and media practitioners during media training and this helped with building constructive working relationships between the two stakeholders. For the first time in Zimbabwe's election history, there were no reported cases of violence against journalists by members of the police during the 2023 Harmonized Elections.
"We appreciate ZIMECO2 for facilitating the media and police engagements. During the 2023 Harmonized Elections, no journalists were attacked by police officers while providing election coverage. The current operating environment is now characterized by mutual understanding between the media and police. As a commitment, the police established an election committee before the elections where we worked together with media practitioners to create mechanisms for their protection. This approach needs to be implemented in other sectors to guarantee the safety of journalists at all levels," 

Perfect Hlongwane, Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) also applauded the ZIM-ECO2 project for supporting media practitioners.
"ZUJ did not record any police violations of journalists. The positive relationship between journalists and police is because of the engagements that ZIM-ECO2 Project held across the country. In previous years, the police would use “minimum force” to ensure compliance, and there would be many complaints from journalists. We are hopeful that there will be continuous support to engage police on the safety and security of journalists,"