Parliament grills BAZ over community radio SI

By ZBC Reporter
THE Statutory Instrument (SI) on the Licensing of Community Radio Stations has been criticised for having strict requirements that make it difficult for some communities to get licenses.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services this Thursday with Statutory Instrument 39 of 2020 regarding establishment and application of Community radio stations coming under scrutiny.
The portfolio committee criticised the SI for defining a “community as a group of people bound together geographically, with shared norms, values and traditions whose control is domiciled in members of that geographical space.”
The committee said as a result of this definition, the ongoing licensing of community radio stations is living out some communities of interest such as churches, youths and people with disabilities who are not within the same geographical space.
Committee Chairperson, Honourable Prince Sibanda quizzed the authority’s definition of a community enquiring on whether it does not live out certain sections of the society.
“How are community radios going to benefit some communities if they are left in the definition?” He quizzed.
Committee member Hon Kindness Paradza said the SI is not in line with the constitution.
“Statutory instrument 39 of 2020 is not in line with the Constitution that provides for access to information for all,” Paradza said.
Another committee member, Hon Shakespeare Hamauswa, said the authority needs to revisit its definition of what a community is to make sure that it is all-inclusive.
“There is a need to redefine a community so that it encompasses all groups of people,” he said.
The committee also said the statutory instrument seems to provide some prescriptive measures that will put the radio stations under a lot of pressure and interference.
“The media must be free without any interference. President Mnangagwa is clear on that. It is not proper to make it a requirement to have the police under the guise of law and order as provided in the instrument,” Honourable Paradza said.
Hon Murisi Zvizvayi also weighed in saying community radio stations will end up being run by people from privileged communities marginalising certain sections of the society.
“The radios will end up being run by people from Harare who have the financial muscle and the local people will be left out,” Hon Zvizvayi said.
Meanwhile, BAZ Senior Law Officer, Joyce Pupukai said the authority will facilitate the training of community broadcasters.
“We will facilitate the training of community broadcasters since they are new in this field. We will not treat them like commercial broadcasters,” she said.
BAZ invited applications for community and campus radio stations as a measure to promote access to information in line with Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution.
The deadline has since been extended from 20 March to 29 May 2020.