- Last Updated on 26 March 2012
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It is a sad development that key institutions like the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) which is supposed to complement people's efforts to exercise their right to freedom of expression, has gone on to suppress the same right. This comes in the wake of long delays by BAZ in calling for applications for community radio licences. The authority called for commercial radio license applications twice last year but is still to call for applications for community radio licenses. The delay is largely described as impeding development and as another ZANU PF tactic meant to limit Zimbabweans' access to information and to advance the party's propaganda, through the state media. Little change is expected when the two 'independent' commercial radio broadcasters, ZIMPAPERS Talk Radio and AB Communications, who where recently awarded licences, begin broadcasting as these are controlled by ZANU PF functionaries.
Paranoia has taken over ZANU PF to the extent that the party now sees a threat in everything including the good intentions behind Community Radio initiatives. The party, even though it claims to stand for all Zimbabweans, fails to realise that community radios, being low cost and easy to operate, reach out to all members of the community in their own languages and maximize the potential for development through sharing of information, knowledge and skills within the community. They are also unifying as their sustainability depends mostly on community contribution and they allow minority and marginalised communities to take charge of what is happening around them.
Radios are affordable to many people and as a communication medium, they offer greater outreach than any other medium. Community radios also counter the problem of illiteracy, which is high amongst minority groups in the country as material is produced in local language. According to ZACRAS, which is the umbrella body of community radio stations and initiatives, lack of community radio stations in Zimbabwe has caused impoverishment, marginalization of minority groups and the general lack of development.
The state of the media in Zimbabwe sidelines minority groups and thus could promote ethnic conflict. The ZANU PF government has in the past used its draconian media laws to shut down some community radio stations like Pachindau, which operates in Chimanimani, Radio Dialogue from Matabeleland, Community Radio Harare, Wezhira Community Radio and Kumakomo Community Radio. Such moves only serve to worsen the already fragile ethnic relations in the country.