Free the airwaves

HARARE - It is saddening indeed that in this day and age authorities in Zimbabwe are reluctant to accept diversity and offer more radio and television licences.

It is rather nauseating that modicum media reforms that the government of Zimbabwe agreed to implement have thus far been implemented half-heartedly with licences being dished out to Zanu PF loyalists or to the State-controlled media where the ruling party has unfettered control and influence.

Thus, our media landscape does not reflect our diversity as a people but rather is designed to prop up a certain group that has control of the levers of power.

For instance, we are still far from achieving a three-tier broadcasting that encompasses — public, commercial and community broadcasting.

It is sad that community radio stations remain a pipe dream for the country as President Robert Mugabe’s government seeks to perpetuate its rule and dominance through muzzling the media.

The private press has not been spared by the ruling party — whose spin-doctors are wont to issue threats whenever they feel that they are being scrutinised too much.

It is clear that government has no intention of freeing the airwaves any time soon because it apparently abhors free speech.

We implore government — through its functionaries — to issue community radio licences so that people in different parts of the country hear stories for themselves by themselves.

The reluctance by the powers that be to issue radio and television licences shows that there is an unwillingness by government to comply with the progressive Constitution which observes the primacy of free speech.

Are we not regressing when other countries like Tanzania and Malawi are issuing community radio stations licences?

Why is it that our government is against issuing licences?

We hope that it will dawn sooner than later on the ruling party elites that in this day of a furiously fast social media it only serves them well if they have formal media that does not dish out falsehoods as is common these days.

We hope that government repeals anti-media laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, provisions in the Criminal law, Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act, Broadcasting Services Act, Official Secrets Act and the interception of Communications Act because these laws contain certain aspects that infringe on access to information.

Particularly, there is need for a wholesome repeal of the Broadcasting Services Act — which is a relic of the racist Ian Smith white supremacist regime so that we allow radio and television stations to proliferate without hindrance.

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