GOVERNMENT has labelled cries for the licensing of community radio stations across the country as “synthetic”, arguing the demands are by “activists who have assumed the position of surrogate communities.”
BY NUNURAI JENA
Media, Information and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary, George Charamba, speaking on the sidelines of an all-stakeholders’ meeting held in Chinhoyi to promote independent broadcasting content production, said his ear was trained to listen to “genuine not synthetic communities for licensing.”
“I am not so much worried about the outcry, for the simple reason that the outcry would have been a real outcry if it were the communities that were crying out.
“What has been happening is that some activists were playing surrogate outcry, but my ear is trained to listen to genuine communities not synthetic communities which is what these activists are,” Charamba, who doubles as President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, said.
While government claims to be committed to plurality in the broadcasting arena, critics argue that it has maintained an iron-grip on the sector dolling out licences to proxies instead. Opposition parties and civic groups have demanded that government allows private broadcasters to enter the sector, but the demands have been largely ignored.
Charamba said government was surprised that while there is such an outcry, nobody applied for metropolitan stations for Chinhoyi and Kadoma towns.
But Misa-Zimbabwe director, Nhlanhla Ngwenya dismissed Charamba’s assertions, saying that was a misconception by government officials for thinking that freedom should be demanded, when it was their duty to allow citizens to enjoy it as demanded by the Constitution.
“There is a misconception by government officials that freedoms should be demanded by citizens, are these organisations not Zimbabwean and failing to provide those freedoms is criminal and obscene and classifying calls is dereliction of duty on the part of government,” Ngwenya said.
In Zimbabwe, there are six national radio stations, eight licensed commercial radio stations and 33 unlicensed community radio stations. Some have resorted to broadcasting from outside the country to avoid State scrutiny and government has responded by labelling them “pirate stations pushing for regime change.”