BAZ faces probe over community radio stations

By Farai Matiashe

Amnesty International has urged Parliamentarians to open an investigation into the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to examine why the authority has not yet licensed community radio station since its establishment almost two decades ago.

BAZ is yet to award licences to community radio stations despite the Constitution calling for a three-tier radio system including public, commercial and community radio stations.

“I recommend Parliament to ensure BAZ is effectively discharging its mandate. Parliament should investigate why BAZ is yet to licence community radio stations since 2001,” Amnesty
International Southern African researcher Lloyd Kuveya said while addressing parliamentarians and civil society groups in Harare yesterday.

Kuveya said Parliament should ensure amendments to legislation were in line with the Constitution and international laws.

He made repeated calls for the government to repeal pieces of legislation such as Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information, Protection and Privacy Act and Broadcasting
Services Act, saying some of these laws hindered licensing of community radio stations and their operations.

Kuveya said there was need to lower the fees required to apply for a community radio licence.

“I recommend Parliament to push for BAZ to issue standing invitation for applications and licence community radio stations, to ensure transparent, objective and fair licence process and
to put in place simple and user friendly application process.

“Amnesty International is concerned with the current prohibitive licence fees for communities, onerous licensing procedures that will frustrate communities, lack of impartiality and
independence of the BAZ given an emerging pattern that all licences issued have been to State-owned companies or individuals linked to the ruling party, lack of transparency and
fairness in licensing process and slow progress in alignment of media laws to the Constitution,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media chairperson Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC Alliance) said the way forward on the licensing of community radio stations was to have a workshop with the government.

“There is need for civil societies, individuals and us the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media to have a workshop with the Executive through the permanent secretary for
Information ministry (Ndavaningi Mangwana) to get an update concerning the licensing of community radios,” he said.

Sibanda said it was high time civil society groups, which advocate for the licensing of community radio stations, do away with petitions because this had been proven beyond reasonable
doubt in the past that they do not
work.

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