By Byron Mutingwende
President Mugabe’s Spokesperson and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, George Charamba has been lambasted by the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) for stifling the promotion of media plurality and diversity.
Charamba, who has for long been reluctant to give licences to community radio stations, irked the proponents of media plurality and diversity when he declared that government would not be put under pressure to issue more radio broadcasting licences while touring a transmitter site in Gwanda last Wednesday. This was after the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe had issued licences to eight commercial radio stations last year.
“It’s unfortunate that some of us are not politicians and it’s only that politics have an interest with us. When people talk of licensing of community radios they are not putting anyone under political pressure. In doing so, they will be talking of the drivers of community development.,” said John Chirinda, the Chairperson of ZACRAS in an interview with Spiked ZW Online.
With community radio stations, people would be encouraged to end hate speech, discourage violence, speak in their vernacular and promote their cultures., Chirinda said.
He said that a truly pluralistic environment when it comes to information distribution or dissemination would be achieved through community radio stations.
“We don’t see political pressure here and its unfortunate that some people have turned into living, breathing, eating, walking, sleeping and thinking politics. We talking of a strategic tool for community development, which is the missing link in the country.
“To the comments by George Charamba, ZACRAS’s position and all like minded people, we are just encouraging the government to improve freedom of expression, media freedoms, media diversity and to ensure a more realistic and pluralistic media environment as enshrined in the Constitution under Section 61 and 62 of our beloved Zimbabwe. George cannot pretend not to know what the law says and start to believe that by virtue of being in authority he can then do as he pleases. We will continue to tell him that 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.”
ZACRAS said that community radios give isolated and marginalised communities a means of education, self-expression, and communication, as they will promote the community’s history, music and oral traditions both in rural and urban settlements.
Media expert, Tariro Makanga weighed in by saying that community radios can be used for health campaigns, education and disasters preparedness and awareness.
Despite Charamba’s attempt to stifle the process, the community radio gospel has spread like a veld fire throughout the country and the dream of not licensing that sector will not stop their conception.
ZACRAS has embarked on a coordinated campaign for licensing of community radio stations in Zimbabwe.
“ZACRAS has played and will continue to play a critical role of empowering communities and sustaining strong, vibrant, autonomous community driven radio stations that are composed of the diversity of community members including women, youth, traditional leaders, lawyers, teachers’ farmers etc. George should face reality and see that his comments are confirmation that Zimbabweans know what they want and continued delay will not help. There is no need for missionary work here but to face reality, engage communities, engage ZACRAS, read IMPI report again and be pragmatic. This politics pressure talk should be the talk of shallow politicians not academics, professionals, and technocrats like our beloved Secretary who fits well into all this,” Chirinda said.
Zimbabwe is not small in any way regarding the broadcasting space and no market can be talked about. The government was encouraged to play its role and create the necessary environment.
“We have a lot of indigenous people who want to invest in this sector and denying such is a clear sign that our very own George has turned to preaching the wrong gospel about what communities are able to do for reasons he alone knows. Our Government, I repeat must fully and effectively fulfill its obligations regards freedom of expression and the right to information,” Chirinda added.