As Zimbabwe joins other countries in marking the 20th anniversary of the ‘Declaration of Windhoek’ also known as World Press Freedom Day, a local media body has called for the establishment of a genuine broadcasting commission that discharges its duties in a professional manner.
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS), an umbrella body of community radio initiatives in Zimbabwe has called for a visible political will to create a conducive broadcasting environment in the country.
Since Independence, the Zimbabwean government has refused to register community radio stations and only recently allowed state aligned Star FM radio and ZiFM owned by local businessman Supa Mandiwanzira to challenge ZBC’s 3 decade stranglehold on the airwaves.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is currently chaired by serial media hangman, Dr Tafataona Mahoso, known for closing down newspapers at the turn of the millennium.
While acknowledging the progress made by the Inclusive government in licensing new players, the body said that media reforms provided for in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and recently the new constitution, must not be cosmetic but should ensure ‘citizens are exposed to diverse voices’.
ZACRAS deplored the culture of impunity that has engulfed the country which has seen security forces illegally seizing radio sets from the public.
“We also urge the government to deal decisively with the culture of impunity which has seen law enforcement agents unilaterally banning citizens from legitimate use of solar powered radio gadgets to access information,” said Gift Mambipiri, ZACRAS chairperson.
Mambipiri urged the government to expedite the process of enacting enabling legislation that ‘complements the media provisions in the new Constitution’. The body maintained that community radios remain the missing link in the communication revolution in the country, which it said are an invaluable asset for communities to develop.
Meanwhile, Youth Agenda Trust Chairperson who is also a media practitioner Kudzai Kwangwari has deplored the state of the media in Zimbabwe and has called for the licensing of genuine community radio stations and for the public broadcaster (ZBC) to stop churning out hate speech.
He said that it is important for ZBC to embrace professional journalistic ethics so that it becomes a true public broadcaster.
“There must be genuine reforms at the public broadcaster to ensure people feel that they own the station. It is the only way people can willingly pay radio and television licences,” Kwangwari said.
Youth Agenda Trust is working in over 20 districts across the country where it has trained communities on citizen journalism and the use of new media technologies.
Today, community members continue to contribute to the publication of ‘The New Age Voices’ paper which is distributed across the districts as well as other local papers which have agreed to partner with the organization in bringing news to closed communities.
World Press Freedom Day was set aside to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.