Statement on the International Day for Universal Access to Information

The Zimbabwe Association of Communication Radio Stations (ZACRAS) joins the world in commemorating the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) which is annually commemorated on the 28th of September.

The IDUAI is a day set aside by the United Nations and has particular relevance with the new 2030 Development Agenda, and in particular with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.10 which calls for ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms. In Zimbabwe the commemorations are being held under the local theme: Overcoming Divides: Achieving SDGs in Zimbabwe.

As we commemorate this day, we remain perturbed that the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), has not licensed community radios. Zimbabwe is presently facing a number of socio-economic challenges which require citizens to be actively involved in solution finding. As it stands, there is an evident break down in service delivery and worsening of people’s standards of living. Therefore citizens need to be empowered to participate in local development processes which enhance their livelihoods.

In 2011, Zimbabwe was reported to have bought community radio equipment. Noting that 6 years have passed with no licensed community radio in sight, Government through Transmedia, needs to account to the citizens where this equipment is noting that it is yet to be used for its intended purpose.

Access to information is fundamental in ensuring citizen participation in national and local development processes. As it stands, in some communities in Zimbabwe there is total absence of either television or radio signals, resulting in people in these communities relying on spillage from neighbouring countries, an unfortunate situation which should be frowned upon by all progressive minded people.

As ZACRAS, we recognise efforts by Government in seeking to address information gaps by donating computers and establishing community information centres in a number of areas. It however has to be noted that there are challenges inhibiting full utilisation of some of these platforms. These challenges are mainly in relation to electricity, low internet penetration and skills gaps amongst others. Resultantly, there is need for deliberate Government effort in addressing these basic issues hindering full utilisation of benefits brought about by changes in technology.

As we commemorate this important day, we still implore the Government of Zimbabwe not to sleep on duty. Community radio is an empowering tool mainly because of its people centred approach which enables communities to actively participate in development processes. In this regard, we call upon you to:

  1. License community radios in Zimbabwe.
  2. Promote the creation of a conducive operational environment for community radios.
  3. Establish a clear and democratic regulatory framework for community radio broadcasting in Zimbabwe.
  4. Support initiatives across the country of aspiring community radio broadcasters.

As 2018 marks the year that Zimbabwe is set to go to the polls, we call upon Legislators and Government to seriously consider licensing community radios before the expiration of their term next year. Licensing community radios will indeed be deemed as one of the key milestones achieved during their term in Office.

Source: Zimbabwe Association of Communication Radio Stations (ZACRAS)