By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) has initiated a regional partnership for unlicensed community radios with the United Nations and European Union in efforts to lobby President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to free the airwaves.
Zimbabwe has no licensed community radio since its attainment of independence in 1980 with media advocacy groups consistently calling for the freeing of the airwaves.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) recently called for community radio stations to apply, with questions being raised on whether those that are not aligned to the ruling party Zanu-PF will be given licenses.
On Thursday, ZACRAS in partnership with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), held a regional community radio discussion.
The virtual meeting was also meant to discuss community radio sustainability during and beyond Covid-19.
Vivienne Marara-Zhangazha, the National Coordinator for ZACRAS said the aim of these regional discussions was to ensure “regional solidarity and collaborations in addressing common challenges affecting community radios across different regions.
“Regional interaction enables experiences sharing and learning more so for Zimbabwe as the country is looking at getting community radios off the ground and developing the sector.
“Apart from that, the networks established through such interactions may culminate in regional solidarity and collaborations in addressing common challenges affecting community radios across different regions,” Zhangazha said.
Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) CEO, Zukiswa Potye from South Africa said the legislative environment of a country should should provide a launch pad for existence of community media.
“To those countries that do not have the type of community media which is free in South Africa, I think the will of government is very important and the legislative framework is very important in creating a conducive environment for community media or for media transformation.
“It is very important for civil society and all the groups to come together with the government to try and convince the government of the need for those needs of media freedom and the need for structures and supported media so that we do not have marginalised groups in this era, people that do not have access to community media or the media that they understand in their language,”
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe) has since petitioned the Parliament of Zimbabwe over the criteria of licensing of community radios.
“MISA Zimbabwe implores the government to ensure that broadcasting licenses are awarded with the objective to ensure universal access, increased access and diversified programming and ensuring that the rights to access to information and freedom of expression are upheld and promoted,” read the petition.