By Joyce Mukucha
As this year’s harmonised elections are expected to take place in a few months’ time, the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) is committed to improving and promoting quality election and investigative reporting through the introduction of an Investigative Journalism Fund.
The fund is a competitive approach mainly centred on providing skills, knowledge and resources for journalists when imparting election information.
Speaking during the launch introduction, Mr Loughty Dube, the Executive Director of VMCZ said there was need for adequate funding on ensuring quality journalism.
“When elections take place, there are stories which emerge such as people talk about election rigging and manipulation of votes. That is thrust of this programme as we expect journalists to investigate how this will be happening. We want ballot reporters who are capable of carrying out depths research.
“Taking a closer look on the Bio-metric Voter Registration Company, people do not have actual information about who provided it and how is it succeeding, therefore our journalist must do more research on issues like these and reveal the hidden issues.
He said there was need to uphold professional standards in the media as the public needed to be served with reliable information. Mr Dube said his organisation would continue to engage with partners and the Zimbabwe Editors Forum to make the project a success.
VMCZ Programmes office Faith Ndlovu submitted that the organisation would have the media and elections awards to incentivise journalists and boost their confidence when reporting.
“After the elections, we are going to select best elections reporters, best gender-marginalised group reporters and best rural elections reporters. Online content creators are also going to be included since they are influential players in dissemination of credible information.
“We as VMCZ want editors and mentors to work strongly with reporters to strengthen the pitching areas. After the pitches are done in newsrooms they are going to be presented before us and we will select the best reporters. The amount of money which is going to be won by journalists range around US$ 750 00 and US$800 per pitch and US$600 for runner ups,” Ndlovu said.
Mr Cris Chinaka, the board vice chairperson of VMCZ and convener of mentors urged journalists not to give general statements and encouraged them to report evidence-based facts.
He said there was need to improve and consolidate investigative journalism by ensuring experienced and enduring skills in the newsrooms.
“We need to engage with mentors and editors of young reporters and focus on a model which has got three Es which are enthusiasm, enterprise and energetic. We have also tree Cs that we need journalists to embrace which are commitment, coordination and cooperation.”
Mr Chinaka also encouraged the journalist to have more time to research as a way of adding value to reporting of elections.