THE Southern African Development Community (Sadc) should nudge the government to open up media space than direct its energies at calling for the closure of exiled Zimbabwe radio stations, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa-Zimbabwe) has said.
REPORT BY STAFF REPORTER
Bernard Membe, the head of the Sadc Election Observer Mission (SEOM) on Monday, in a final election report of the July 31 elections, said stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe should cease operations immediately.
But Misa-Zimbabwe director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said: “We certainly disagree with the understanding of these foreign based radio stations that they are pirate.
“They are not criminal, they are operating legally wherever they are based and their operations are registered. What Sadc should be concerned about is on the opening up of the broadcast media to other private players.”
At least four Zimbabwe radio stations are based outside the country, among them the UK-based Short Wave Radio Africa, Radio VOP, US-based Studio 7 and the recently established First TV based in neighbouring South Africa.
While the print media has witnessed the emergence of new private newspapers, the State still maintains a tight grip over the broadcast media, notably the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), which has two television channels and four radio stations.
The State-owned ZBC faces charges of bias towards Zanu PF, with opposition parties saying this formed the basis for media reforms.
Ngwenya said Sadc should push the government to abandon restrictive media laws used to deny other private players licences to broadcast locally.
“What Sadc is talking about are the symptoms of a fundamental problem,” he said.
“The broadcasting sector is governed by restrictive laws.
“Sadc should not address the symptoms, but the problems of the legal framework governing broadcast media.”