Players demand more radio licences

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) is demanding that government licences more community radio stations, arguing the move will expand people’s freedom of expression and expose human rights issues.

This comes after Information ministry permanent secretary George Charamba recently said government will no longer issue any more radio licences, citing viability challenges currently affecting the existing stations.

“Government, which is committed to ensuring that the broadcasting sector is viable, will not yield to political pressures to issue more commercial and community radio broadcasting licences under the current economic environment,” Charamba said recently.

However, Zacras chairperson, John Chirinda, contends that community stations are necessary for development and their demands have nothing to do with “political pressure”.

“People need community radios as a priority because they are equally important tools to address the human rights and developmental challenges this country is facing. George (Charamba) knows that community radios will give isolated and marginalised communities a means of education, self-expression, and communication as they will promote community’s history, music and oral traditions both in rural and urban settlements,” he said, further describing Charamba as “overzealous”.

Chirinda said there are a lot of indigenous individuals that are willing to invest in the broadcasting sector, but are failing to get the opportunity due to government’s failure to provide the necessary platforms.

“To imagine that George is for the stoppage of a vehicle which passes public awareness on public health campaigns, education, disasters inter-alia is not only incongruous but losing the game all together,” Chirinda said.

“When people talk of licensing of community radios they . . . are talking of the end of hate speech, stop promotion of violence, stop this reputation damaging mentality when one expresses self and bringing community language thereby giving communities the opportunity to return and promote their cultures. We are talking of creating a truly pluralistic environment when it comes to information distribution/dissemination,” he said in a statement.

Zimbabwe government has been under immense pressure to permit more radio stations in the country, after only licensing a few commercial and community ones, 36 years after independence.

With the industry dominated by State broadcaster, ZBC, the country has only managed to at least licence eight community radio stations, with a few able to meet operating deadlines.

Many players in the industry have been crying foul over the allocation of the licences, which they claim were being awarded to organisations and individuals considered to be “politically correct” or are aligned to the ruling Zanu PF party in some way.

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