Msosa cautions on opinion polls: Urges SADC electoral bodies to open up to media

Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission Justice Anastasia Msosa has challenged electoral management bodies in the SADC to open up to the media by giving information which can help build an informed electorate.

Msosa said this in her keynote address to the two-day workshop on Elections Management Bodies, Media and Election that drew participants from electoral commissions, media councils from the 14 SADC member states and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).

“The media can help electoral bodies to publicise their work, provide a platform to explain electoral process, clarifying electoral issues and arraying fears of the public that come due to wrong perceptions.

Msosa: Be cautious when reporting opinion polls

“However, this needs to be reciprocal. Election management bodies should open up to the media by involving them in the entire electoral process, by providing information kits and being willing to explain or issue statements whenever the media require such information,” she said.

The meeting was organised to come up with election reporting guidelines for the media and ended on September 26, 2012 in Pretoria, South Africa

The MEC chairperson said the meeting came  at a right time whereby several countries in the SADC were preparing to hold elections in 2013 and 2014 and it offered an opportunity to put in practice what will be agreed.

Opinion polls

Msosa also challenged the media to be cautious when reporting opinion polls by assessing their validity and ensuring that acceptable methods of conducting surveys were used.

“Opinion polls can hurt and contribute to voter apathy if not handled with care. Some media houses promote opinion polls that have been conducted by institutions with questionable credibility.” She said.

MISA regional Director, Zoe Titus said equal media access during elections was vital as it also has a decisive factor on the outcome of elections.

She said the watchdog role of the media should continue even after elections by holding elected officers accountable to the pledges they made during campaign.

Titus said the voluntary media guidelines which will be adopted at the end of the meeting will be building blocks for free and fair elections in the SADC region.

The meeting has been organized by MISA, Open Society Institute of Southern Africa (OSISA), FESMedia Africa, Freidrich–Ebert Stiftung and the Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa Development Countries (SADC-ECF).

Source: www.mec.org.mw

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