Recent reports in the media hinting that the government intends to set up community radio stations particularly in disaster prone rural communities are disturbing.
While it may be sound and noble for the government to have concern for the welfare of people living in outlying areas, it is our view as ZACRAS that government has no business in the setting up of community radio stations.
We view such a move as being prone to manipulation and hijacking by the ruling elite for their own selfish ends, as experience has taught us.
Our definition of a genuine community radio is one that is owned and controlled by a particular community whose members actively participate in every aspect of the station and is not for profit. The setting up of such a radio station must be a response to an expressed need by the community and not just a government perception.
It is radio by the community for the community.
A community radio station should provide a platform for communities to access information and freely express themselves for their own development. That the referred community radios can assist in information dissemination in disaster prone areas is also true of any other developmental issue.
ZACRAS believes community radio should be a facilitator of community development and allow community participation in decision making processes beginning at local level permeating into national processes.
Community radio can facilitate in the creation of a democratic culture that enables the population to take responsibility for political, economic and social processes in the nation state.
In our view (ZACRAS), the government should have trust in those who elected them into power to be organised enough to initiate the set- up of community radio stations in their communities. We are not against the government supporting such efforts as long as the said community radios are not going to be manipulated to become mouth pieces for the powerful.
We therefore strongly urge the government to allow communities to set up their own community radio stations without interference or hindrance.
As an association of community radio initiatives started by communities for communities we call upon the government to issue out licenses to these initiatives that are already in place and are just waiting to be granted licenses to broadcast.
Our view is that if government is genuine about community radio then it is high time the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) calls for licence applications and in a transparent manner license deserving community radio stations.