The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) Tuesday marked World Press Freedom Day with a call on authorities to scrap laws that inhibit both the licencing and smooth operation of community stations.
In a statement, ZACRAS commended government for licencing community radio stations in the country.
The group was however quick to point out the different obstacles the stations continue to encounter as they prepare to launch.
Among the obstacles are issues to do with licensing and financing their operations.
READ FULL STATEMENT BELOW:
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) Statement on World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2022
As the world commemorates World Press Freedom Day which is being held under the theme ‘Journalism Under Digital Siege’, the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) takes the opportunity to acknowledge and commend efforts made by the government of Zimbabwe to license 14 community radio stations in the country as part of the drive to complete the three tier broadcasting system.
ZACRAS has over the years been advocating for the licensing of community radio stations, which have so far been licensed across the country’s ten provinces, with the association working closely with government and other partners to ensure that all radio stations go on air.
As part of its mandate, the association is rolling out a series of capacity building programs that will see licensed community radio stations going on air before the end of the Broadcasting Services Act’s recommended 18 month period and providing the crucial, locally produced developmental news.
Community radio stations have played an important role during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw some of the stations being part of the government Covid-19 provincial task forces in the process communicating accurate and relevant information.
The licensing of community radios will go a long way in promoting access to information and participation by marginalised and underrepresented communities in Zimbabwe.
As the country is battling the Covid-19 pandemic, ZACRAS remains cognizant of the fact that there are communities which are not regularly accessing relevant information needed to make critical decisions.
It remains ZACRAS’ conviction that the existence of community radios in Zimbabwe will greatly assist in local and timely dissemination of information on Covid-19 as has been witnessed in other countries such as India and Ethiopia amongst others.
On World Press Freedom Day ZACRAS have the following recommendations;
To the Government:
– Government of Zimbabwe must promote the rights of community radio journalists by ensuring their safety especially during the election period.
– Fully respect editorial and programming independence of community radio stations.
– To fully support the sustainability of community radio stations by repealing parts of the Broadcasting Services Act which do not allow community radio stations to advertise.
– To use the Community Broadcasting fund in an equitable manner that will ensure community radio stations benefit.
– To promote foreign investment in broadcasting a situation that will improve the sustainability of community broadcasters.
– Make the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe more autonomous and strengthen it to function without political interference.
To the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ)
– Adopt an open-ended mechanism of licensing of community broadcasting services by accepting applications any time of the year.
– Lower the fees for licenses to ease the financial burden for applicants for community broadcasting services.
– Adopt a user-friendly application process for community broadcasting services that takes into account the technical limitations of community-based organizations that are interested in establishing radio stations.
– Operate in a non-partisan, fair and transparent manner including by opening the adjudication process and the decisions not to license made available to the applicant as well as to the public particularly to allay fears that licenses are being issued favourably to ruling party members and sympathizers alone.
For interviews contact ZACRAS National Chairperson Tobias Saratiel +263773067073