The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) has urged the government to to open up calls for urban and special interest community radio stations in order to broaden access to community radio programming.
This request comes as the world marks the International Day for Universal Access to Information on September 28.
Although ZACRAS acknowledged the significant progress made in recent years towards creating an enabling environment for community radio stations in rural Zimbabwe, the organisation said there is a need for urban based community radio stations to extend and increase reach of information access.
“However, as we commemorate this International Day for Univeral Access to Information, we urge government to widen access to community radio broadcasting through opening up calls for urban based and special interest community radio stations,” ZACRAS said.
ZACRAS made the remarks in solidarity with individuals and organisations around the world who recognise the fundamental importance of access to information for the development and empowerment of communities.
“While the progress made is commendable, we believe there is a lot of coordinated work to be done in making sure that all communities have access to their own voices through community radio.”
ZACRAS also urged the government, through the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, to continue working together with them in coordinating the broadcasting sector.
“In keeping with the global theme – ‘The importance of online spaces for access to information,’ we implore the government of Zimbabwe to intervene in mitigating against the ever-escalating data costs by mobile service providers,” said the organisation.
Making sure that data is affordable for everyone, including rural communities, community radio stations will also be able to share their content via online spaces that are easily accessible by citizens, said ZACRAS.
“We also urge the government to continue making sure that all citizens especially in rural communities enjoy unlimited access to community FM broadcasting through the provision of strong wider reach transmitters. Therefore, we appeal to the new Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services (Dr Jenfan Muswere) to prioritise the licensing process for more community radio stations.”
ZACRAS noted that by expanding the number of licensed community radio stations, the information gap can be bridged while making sure communities across the country have access to a diverse range of voices, perspective and local content that meets their needs and aspirations.
“Furthermore, encourage the new minister to engage in dialogue and consultation with stakeholders including civil society organisations, community leaders and media practitioners to develop policies and regulations that support the sustainable operations of community radio stations,” ZACRAS said.
“This includes addressing challenges such as excessive licensing fees and the setting up of a broadcasting fund to assist community broadcasters.”
ZACRAS added they remain “committed to promoting the right to access to information and advocating for a vibrant and inclusive community radio landscape in Zimbabwe.
“We call upon all stakeholders to join us in our efforts to make sure that every community has the opportunity to establish and operate their own community radio stations thereby releasing their rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”