Tuesday, 11 August 2009

[creative-radio] MENA Zimbabwe: 'Open the airwaves and grant operating licences to community radio stations'


Zimbabwe: 'Unity Govt Success Tied to Media Reform'

7 August 2009



The following is an address by Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten
Rylander, at the National Journalistic and Media Awards last Friday.

I would like to use this opportunity to look at the progress of the
inclusive government and the role of the media.

I will share my views from an international perspective and as a friend of
the Zimbabwean people. I believe an international perspective is crucial
because free media and freedom of expression know no borders.

Media should and can never be constrained by narrow national perceptions
or sovereignty.

Sweden has an admired tradition of press freedom, which dates back as far
as 1766 when the Freedom of the Press Act was passed. Sweden's current
work with media is ultimately founded on the rights of the individual: the
right to freedom of expression, the right to knowledge, the right to
transform knowledge into action and the right to freedom from poverty.


The opening up of the media environment is one of the key issues that we
will be observing. As part of the agenda we also endeavour to achieve a
successful dialogue (under Article 8 of the EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement) with
the Zimbabwean government aimed at normalised relations.

In this regard, an open and vibrant media will be important in order to
highlight and communicate the progress of the inclusive government as the
country moves towards re-engagement.

Press freedom is not an alien concept. One of the best and most
comprehensive sets of media guidelines was produced in Namibia in the
early 1990s.


Over the last years the state repression of the media has intensified
through the use of legislation like Aippa, Posa and the Broadcasting
Services Act.

These laws have seen the crackdown on the media resulting in forced
closure of private newspapers and radio stations, the arrest and
intimidation of journalists and the restructuring of the state media into
a deplorable and highly politicised monopoly.

The international community and indeed Zimbabweans are closely monitoring
the media environment expecting an end to the repression as an indicator
of the success of the inclusive government.


The GPA notes that while the provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act
permit the issuance of licences, to date no licences other than to the
public broadcaster have been issued.

It is very important for the government to urgently open up the airwaves
to allow for the operation of "as many media houses as possible" to
directly quote from the GPA. A first step would be to open the airwaves
for community radio stations.

As Sweden we join so many others in believing that the absence of
community-based radios hinders development and slows down poverty
reduction efforts. Community radio stations could be playing a crucial
role in terms of informing the ordinary people, especially in rural and
marginal areas, on the progress of the inclusive government and other key
issues like national healing and the constitution-making process.

We call upon the government to open the airwaves and grant operating
licences to community radio stations and other broadcasters.


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