MISA Zimbabwe on 18 August 2018 filed an urgent chamber application at the Constitutional Court seeking the court’s permission for the live broadcasting and streaming of the election challenge to be heard next Wednesday.
The second applicant is Bulawayo-based freelance journalist Busani Bafana who argues that he will not be able to travel to Harare to cover the court proceedings. Both applicants state that the election challenge is in the national interest and must, therefore, be accessible to all Zimbabweans in real time.
In his supporting affidavit, Bafana says: “…I believe that the live-streaming of the proceedings in the matter… accords with modern journalistic trends in that the process will enable journalists like myself, that are not resident in Harare; and cannot readily travel to that city, to completely, accurately and effectively report on the matter in real time for the public benefit.” They further argue that the public’s interest in electoral matters is not only limited to the casting of votes and announcement of election results but also includes coverage of any challenges pertaining to the election process.
Proceedings in Zimbabwean courts are generally open to members of the public. However, there is yet to be an occasion where members of the media have broadcast live or streamed court hearings.
Live streaming utilises Internet-based services such as Facebook Live and Twitter Periscope. Facebook and Twitter are mobile applications that require the use of cell phones. Unfortunately, the use of cell phones is not permitted in Zimbabwean courtrooms. The court will, therefore, have to condone their use before media practitioners can use them to cover events.
The application cites the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and presidential election candidates Nelson Chamisa, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Noah Manyika as nominal respondents. Nominal respondents are not required to make any submissions pertaining to this particular application. They are only cited for their own information.
Should the Constitutional Court rule in the applicants’ favour, they will be allowed to film and live stream the hearing.