‘Take govt to Concourt over radio licences’

PIRATE radio stations are critical players in Zimbabwe as the government drags its feet in licensing prospective independent broadcasters and those seeking to operate community radio stations should take a leaf and start broadcasting without licences to force authorities to free the airwaves.

STAFF REPORTER

National University of Science and Technology (Nust) journalism lecturer Blessing Jona told the Bulawayo Press Club at
commemorations of World Press Freedom Day on Saturday evening that broadcasters should beam without licences and take the government to the Constitutional Court (Concourt) to guarantee media freedom if authorities stopped them from broadcasting.

“What should we (media) do as the way forward . . . broadcasters should start broadcasting without licences because they have the right to media freedom according to the new Constitution,” Jona said.

“If authorities arrest the broadcasters or confiscate their equipment, we will go to the Concourt to demand our media freedom rights as enshrined in the Constitution.”

According to the new Constitution, freedom of the media is provided for under Section 61 (2).

The commemorations that were organised by the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter and Radio Dialogue were held amid
increasing choruses for the government to speedily open up the airwaves.

Jona added that media players “should not just fold our hands without taking any action” to force the government to free the airwaves.

The government is accused of reluctance to free the broadcasting services where it has a stranglehold to allow independent players, particularly community radio stations.

In 2010, the coalition government attempted to partially free the airwaves by issuing two “independent” broadcasting licences to Star FM and ZiFM, which are thought to have strong links to Zanu PF.

Traditional leaders recently called on the government to speedily open up the broadcasting media space and licence community radio stations so they could spearhead development in rural areas.

Zimbabwe is one of few countries in Africa without community radio stations.

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