Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » Community Radios Mull Court Action Over Licences

THE Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) says it is will take the government to court if it fails to grant its members community radio licences in line with the law.

President Robert Mugabe’s government, which has kept a tight grip on broadcast media, is yet to call for applications for community radio licences.

The administration is currently processing applications for commercial radio licences.

ZACRAS is also concerned after the government indicated that civil society radio stations will not qualify to represent communities.

ZACRAS information and publicity secretary, Thomas Sithole, last week told the media that they would go the legal route to force the government to issue the licences.

“It is clear in the statutes that we must have community radios in this country and it is a right which is guaranteed in the constitution.

“Everywhere we go throughout the country people are saying the licensing of community radios was overdue and it is against this background that if government delays or fails to issue community radio licences we will opt for litigation,” Sithole said.

He was speaking after meeting parliament’s portfolio committee on media and information technology at the weekend.

ZACRAS chairman, Gift Mambipiri, said it was clear from the meeting that the government does not intend to issue community radio licences to their members anytime soon.

“Our meeting with MPs was painful in the sense that they indicated that there is no political will to licence the community radios,” he said.

“They indicated that the executive was not willing to open up the airwaves and to us it a very big drawback.”

Mambipiri added that the government had no immediate plan to amend the law to allow members to apply for licences rather than the government calling for such applications.

ZACRAS said there are at least 13 community radio stations that are ready to broadcast if granted licences.

To get over the legal hurdles, the groups are currently conducting community meetings, record them and put them on CDs and distribute them to the community.

They are also using new technologies such as WhatsApp, Facebook and bulk text messages to reach their target audiences.

Although the government has allowed private newspapers to operate, especially since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, it has maintained a tight rein on broadcast media.

The government this year issued licences to commercial radio stations but critics said those granted the licences had close ties with the ruling Zanu PF party.

They say the government is reluctant to grant licences to community radio stations as they could break Zanu PF’s grip on information dissemination and tilt the balance of power in the party’s rural gholds.

Source : New Zimbabwe

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