MISA-Zimbabwe Media Alert
13 January 2016
Threat to blackout foreign-based radio stations
The Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Christopher Mushowe has urged the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to draft a bill to deal with private radio stations broadcasting from outside the country.
Addressing BAZ senior management during a tour of the regulatory authority on 12 January 2016, Mushowe said Zimbabwe’s airwaves should not be invaded by foreign based stations when the country has capacity to ‘protect its territory’.
MISA-Zimbabwe expresses its shock at the minister’s futile attempt to curtail the free flow of information in this era which has seen the digitisation of the media sector and increased access to the internet by Zimbabweans.
Instead , the government should repeal or amend sections of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) to allow for the establishment of an independent and converged broadcasting and telecommunications regulatory body.
While Zimbabwe now boasts two privately owned national commercial radio stations in addition to the licensing of eight provincial radio stations, the licences have generally been viewed as have been issued to companies and individuals with links to the ruling Zanu PF.
An independent licensing authority appointed through a transparent and open system involving civil society and parliament, will ensure the licensing of genuinely independent broadcasters that have been denied broadcasting licenses in the past.
It is this situation that has resulted in the establishment of foreign-based radio stations managed by Zimbabwean journalists and citizens beaming into Zimbabwe.
The BSA should thus be reviewed to ensure compliance with Section 61 of the Constitution which provides for freedom of expression and freedom of the media. The section, among other provisions, states that broadcasting and other electronic media of communication have freedom of establishment … independent of control by government or by political or commercial interests.
The minister’s threats clearly demonstrate the government’s reluctance to democratise the broadcasting sector given that almost 15 years after the enactment of BSA, the government is still to license community radio stations.
MISA-Zimbabwe reiterates that government should prioritise the establishment of an independent and converged regulatory body. This will ensure that government functionaries and agencies do not have an unfair advantage over aspiring and genuinely independent broadcasters in competing for the limited frequencies.