Zim makes strides in access to information

Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent

Zimbabwe yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Radio Day, at a time when the country has made huge strides towards ensuring access to information even in the remotest parts through the licencing of 14 community radio stations and eight campus radio stations.

World Radio Day is celebrated on February 13 every year.

It was first celebrated in 2012, following its declaration by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) general conference.

Subsequently, it was adopted as an International Day by the United Nations General Assembly.

This year’s commemorations ran under the theme, “Radio: A century of informing, entertaining and educating”.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services said radio was essential in the dissemination of information across the country.

“As a country we have made huge strides towards ensuring access to information in the remotest parts of the country by licencing 14 community radio stations and eight campus radio stations,” reads the statement.

“The language-based community radio stations have given a voice to the hitherto marginalised communities in line with our philosophy of leaving no one and no place behind.

“Radio remains one of the communication mediums with unparalleled reach supporting effective information dissemination anchored on an enabling environment that promotes media diversity and plurality.

“This has seen the operationalisation of the community and campus radio stations across the country.”

The Ministry of Information said it remains committed to fulfilling its mandate of creating an informed nation through being a real time disseminator of information in the country and beyond.

This year’s commemorations will be jointly held with the launch of Twasumpuka FM in Binga, Matabeleland North province, on February 25.

Government has invited the Binga community to join the commemorations and launch Twasumpuka FM.

Speaking during the World Radio Day celebrations in Harare yesterday, the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) board chairperson Mr Artwell Nkomo implored Government to license more community radio stations and provide adequate support. Mr Nkomo said World Radio Day provides people with a valuable opportunity to reflect on the immense impact that radio has had on societies.

“Community radio stations bridge the information gap, empower women and youth, stimulate local economies and strengthen social cohesion,” he said.

“Since the licencing of 14 community radio stations in Zimbabwe, there has been increased information conveyance and dialogue.

“Through the airwaves, community radio has connected people, promoted local culture and budded musicians from marginalised communities,” said Mr Nkomo.

He added that in the last 20 years, ZACRAS has been at the forefront of championing community radio initiatives in Zimbabwe, which have now become “vital platforms for amplifying the voices of marginalised communities, promoting local content and addressing the unique needs of diverse populations”.

“While we celebrate the progress made over the past two decades, we also acknowledge that there is still much work to be done,” he said.

“We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to recognise the significant role of community radio in promoting democracy, freedom of expression, and social inclusion and therefore their sustainability should be on the national agenda.

“The current 14 licenced community radio stations are at different capacity levels and we want to ensure their continued existence and success in the communities as they provide local voices an opportunity to be heard and they are a critical source of information for the community,” said Mr Nkomo.

ZACRAS, he added, stands ready to continue collaborating with the Government, civil society organisations and all stakeholders to create a vibrant and inclusive media landscape that empowers all Zimbabweans.

Spokesperson and coordinator for the National Association of Community Broadcasters Zimbabwe, Ms Yvonne Buzwane who is also Radio BuKalanga station manager, commended the power of radio.

“As community radio stations, we are blessed to have different communities licenced with radio stations that can help us empower our communities, have their voices heard, promote public participation and promote our cultures and languages which were almost dying,” she said.

Ms Buzwane said the Kalanga language was almost dying but since the community radio station started broadcasting, a lot has been happening.

“Culture festivals have been making a difference and other organisations have started working with us to send information to our communities,” she said.

Ms Buzwane said community radio stations are facing several challenges and need financial support to improve their operations.

“While we celebrate the many gains recorded, we are however facing many challenges centred mainly on shortage of resources. We also have mobility and network coverage issues as our coverage is limited and we have no vehicles to reach all the areas in our communities,” she said.

Ms Buzwane said the other challenge is that the terrain is very difficult to navigate and when the station attempts to get content on the phone, the network is bad making it difficult to communicate.

“As an association we are appealing to the Government to consider providing a grant for community radios because they have not been spared by the El Nino induced drought which has led to the deaths of livestock that most communities were using to fund the community radio stations,” she said.

Ms Buzwane appealed to BAZ and Transmedia to provide the proper infrastructure required to increase their coverage.

“They should improve transmission because some areas only have a 5km radius transmission. There is a need for those licencing us to provide the required infrastructure to enable us to cover a radius of between 40 to 80 km,” she said.

Community radio stations also bemoaned high rentals and lack of capacity building programmes to sharpen their skills. – Additional reporting: Chronicle

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