By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
13 February, 2014
Zimbabwe is lagging behind other regional countries in developing and promoting the use of radio as a medium and government needs to license independent players, media groups said as the world marked World Radio Day on Thursday.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) and legislators on the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology, all agreed that private radio and community licenses should be issued by government.
February 13th is celebrated annually as World Radio Day, to highlight the use of radio as a medium that can be used to promote access to information and freedom of expression. The theme this year is “gender equality and women’s empowerment in radio”.
Patience Zirima, from the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, said: “Zimbabwe is lagging behind. We have very few commercial radio stations and we have no community radio stations whatsoever. Like the rest of the region women are under-represented in radio just like any other medium.”
Zirima added that this is especially true when it comes to women in editorial and decision-making positions. The Media Alliance is also working with the Federation of African Media Women-Zimbabwe (Famwz) to promote gender diversity in radio.
“We have been working to increase the number of women in the news and also promoting issues around the safety of women journalists through campaigns targeting sexual harassment of women and how it is pervading newsrooms in Zimbabwe.
On Wednesday members of the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology, visited BAZ, the broadcasting authority, to assess why there has been such a long delay in issuing commercial radio licenses to independent players.
MP James Maridadi, who is on the board of the Portfolio Committee, told SW Radio Africa that they criticized BAZ for the delay in issuing licenses and recommended that the authority move quickly to rectify this.
Maridadi said Zimbabwe is lagging behind countries like Zambia and Malawi, who have many independent radio stations, but admitted the Portfolio Committee has no real mandate and cannot pressure BAZ into making changes.
“We only have two licensed radio stations. One of them is owned by a deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira and the other is owned by ZimPapers, which is a media house also controlled by government,” Maridadi said, referring to ZiFM and Star FM, which were both licensed controversially by BAZ.
He added: “It was the feeling of parliamentarians on the committee that the reasons we are behind have everything to do with politics. It is not licensing or legislation that is the problem. It is political. There are people who are worried as to what will be broadcast and Zimbabweans will listen to.”
The Media Institute of Southern African (MISA) marked World Radio Day with events in several countries. In a statement the regional director, Zoé Titus, said although women in Africa have made great strides in radio, a greater effort is still required to ensure equal opportunities for women in broadcasting.
Titus challenged female radio journalists in southern Africa to educate themselves and use radio to claim their power, saying they need to be “the difference that they wish to see in the radio sector”.
Statistics from the United Nations show that worldwide only about 25 percent of media board members are women, 22 percent of subject matter in radio news focuses on women and only 6 percent of the stories highlight issues of gender equality.