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Journalists should take up specialized court reporting.

The contents and opinions expressed in this report are a collection of insights and ideas gathered at a training workshop on court reporting hosted by MISA Zimbabwe in Harare on July 19, 2023.

As the judicial services decentralize into specialized courts, media coverage by journalists must adapt to the changes and move along with the developments that are central to news sources. Such is the approach that urgently needs to be considered by media houses and freelance journalists to adapt specialized court reporting to improve and maintain the quality of media packages.

Specialized court reporting will revolutionize media packaging as well as enhance journalistic authority for investigative journalists reporting on court stories. The absence of specialized court reporting leaves room for generalized and shallow reporting that sometimes misinterprets the facts and amounts to a considerable degree of misinformation. ZNCJ takes the position that generalized reporting of court cases falls short of ethical journalism and perpetuates regression in the information ecosystem. As such, specialized court reporting will solve the current challenge of national literacy on constitutional matters. This article will argue that specialized media coverage of courts will unlock literacy on constitutional matters for the public.

Secondly, the article will also expose how a general or wholistic approach to court reporting sometimes amounts to misinformation and can be an instrument of injustice, considering that some journalists do not follow up on verdicts or sentencing after reporting their first appearances in court. This argument will point to court cases reported by the community in Bindura that failed to follow up on rulings.

The two argumentative positions were tabled during a training workshop on court reporting organized by MISA Zimbabwe with sessions led by Dr. Tarisai Mutangi, a legal expert.

The training engagement established that journalists must know which court to approach when investigating or gathering court stories.

With nine different courts:

  • Magistrates court
  • Hight court
  • Labor court
  • Constitutional court
  • Anti-corruption court
  • Civil court

At present, Zimbabwean media houses do not have specialized court reporters covering specialized courts. During the deliberations at the workshop training, it was noted that journalists are underreporting court cases and only going for stories that sell the morning paper. In this paper, I will unpack the need for newsrooms and freelance journalists to adopt specialized court reporting.

Specialized court reporting will improve understanding of constitutional matters.

Is the Ministry of Information effectively fulfilling its mandate to educate the public on constitutional matters? I would authoritatively say no. The burden of disseminating information for national good is left for the media to handle. However, it is imperative to understand that the media is highly polarized for profit and political manipulation. Journalists are falling short on educating the public on constitutional matters in their entirety, and this part of the article will argue why specialized court reporting can improve literacy and understanding of constitutional matters.

By covering village court cases, citizen journalists stimulate community discussions about legal issues and dispute resolution. This open dialogue can lead to a better understanding of the justice system and foster a sense of communal responsibility. Hypothetically speaking, a journalist who exclusively covers the labor court—the reporter—is potentially able to report on labor cases with expertise as a result of their experience in covering labor cases regardless of case size. The same goes for reporters who exclusively cover gender-based violence and sexual crimes. They are able to authoritatively build a profile and/or portfolio for reporting.

Case study on coverage of the Bindura magistrate’s court

When court journalists pursue specialized reporting, it also paves the way for thorough investigation and reporting. This report found that thoroughness and follow-up on court cases were lacking among community reporters covering the Bindura magistrate’s court.

Below are court cases covered by local reporters in Bindura who failed to follow up on the verdicts. For instance, a journalist would write a case of a person who appears for the first time before a magistrate facing rape charges; subsequently, a story is written according to the charge sheets, but there is a lack of follow-up to close the case along with a sentencing or acquittal. This type of reporting subtly qualifies the possibility of misinformation because a case has not been reported in its entirety.

Pictures and links


Zimbabwean media organizations have the potential to engage in court reporting. Court reporters and freelance journalists must adapt specialized court reporting following the precedence of the specialized courts in Zimbabwe.

Central to this adaptation is the improved quality of court reports and enhanced public literacy on constitutional matters.

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By Richard Kawazi

Richard Kawazi is a media policy and tech enthusiast, also a multi award winning journalist with a keen interest in Experimental Media Development.