The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) has welcomed the process of licensing community radio stations saying it will go a long way in promoting access to information in the country.
In a message to commemorate the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) which is celebrated annually on the 28th of September, ZACRAS also called on government to ensure that the licensing of community radios is non-partisan.
"The IDUAI comes at a time when the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), has commenced the commendable process of licensing community radio stations. Additionally, starting on the 12th of October 2020 until the 21st of October 2020, BAZ will be holding public inquiries for free to air national commercial television broadcasting service license applications.
"These two developments come against the background of the Zimbabwean Government also continuing with the process of establishing Information centers in remote areas to allow citizens access to the internet, albeit with challenges related to electricity and internet access.
"The introduction of new players in the broadcasting scene will go a long way in promoting access to information by Zimbabweans including marginalised and underrepresented communities. ZACRAS therefore commends the visible efforts by the Government of Zimbabwe to introduce new players in the broadcasting sector," reads the statement
The association implored government to safeguard the process from partisan politics.
"While we commend Government for the work that it is doing, we continue to call upon Government, through BAZ, to ensure that the licensing process for community radios and national commercial television stations is non-partisan, fair and seeks to diversify and pluralize the broadcasting sector in its entirety including content focus and ownership structure.
"As the community radio licensing process is underway, ZACRAS is concerned by reports coming from some of prospective licensees relating to interference bordering on harassment from selected individuals domiciled within their communities. Where possible, ZACRAS has engaged the Ministry of Information Officials so as to alert them about these developments," said ZACRAS.
The association added "In light of changes in technology coupled with the establishment of information centers, we further implore all concerned stakeholders to strive to ensure that the internet is accessible to all including ensuring the enactment of affordable access costs. This will in turn enable marginalized and underrepresented communities to have wider access to information platforms including digital platforms."
The International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) was declared by the United Nations and is important towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 16.10 which calls for ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.