Government threatens community radio initiatives

Anywhere Mutambudizi director of urban communications with the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services has threatened to clamp down on Community Radio Initiatives (CRIs) accusing them of being donor funded and operating illegally.

Zimbabwe community radio report cover photoMutambudzi ‘s threats were ironically made during commemorations to mark World Radio Day .

The CRIs which fall under the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS), exist  as registered trusts with the Deeds Office and not as radio stations while awaiting the long overdue call for applications for licenses for community radio stations.

MISA-Zimbabwe position

Instead of threatening the CRIs, Mutambudzi should have seized the opportunity to update the nation as to when the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ)  is going to call for applications for community radio stations.

This is of urgency given that 15 years after the enactment of the Broadcasting Services Act which recognises community radio stations, Zimbabwe is still to license a single community radio station.

And as the government mulls its definition of what Mutambudzi termed  a “genuine” community for purposes of licensing community radio stations, it should take into consideration that a community can be defined as:

  • a geographically based group of persons
  • social group or sector of the public who have common or specific interests
  • self-organised network of people with common agenda, cause or interest who collaborate by sharing ideas, information and other resources

What this means is that women, youth or church groups, for example, can establish their own community radio stations by virtue of common interest or agenda.

MISA-Zimbabwe therefore urges the government to consult widely in coming up with its definition of a community. An imposed or one-size-fits-all definition of what constitutes a community will otherwise be challengeable as defeating the developmental , participatory and democratisation role of community radio.

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