APPLICANTS’ HEADS OF ARGUMENT
- This application has been brought seeking a declaratory order and an interdict against the Respondents to comply with the provisions of the Constitution and the electoral law relating to freedom of the media which they are presently violating.
- The First and Second Respondents are state-owed media houses within the meaning of section 61(4) of the Constitution and therefore have special obligations placed on them in that capacity to be independent, impartial and provide fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.
- Both have, however, been operating with impunity and in violation of those provisions. In particular, their coverage of political parties is grossly inequitable with the lion’s share of airtime being reserved for members of the ruling ZANU PF party, with the remaining scraps being distributed between opposition parties. As if that were not enough, the reporting itself is blatantly biased in favour of the ruling ZANU PF party and often denigrates opposition parties, in particular the largest opposition party, MDC.
- Additionally, since the proclamation of the election there are a number of additional requirements placed on the First and Second Respondents by the Electoral Act which give effect to the broader constitutional principles they continue to violate with impunity.
- The Third, Fourth and Fifth Respondents are charged with monitoring media houses during elections and ensuring their compliance with the law. However, they have failed to discharge their statutory constitutional obligations to do so, which contributes to the ongoing violation of the Applicants’ and the general public’s rights to freedom of expression and the media and administrative justice, among other rights. They’ve also failed to disclose how they are going to conduct the monitoring and what they will do to ensure compliance by errant media houses which violates the right to access to information.