The Media Institute of Southern Africa- Zimbabwe chapter (MISA Zimbabwe) has implored the President Emmerson Mnangagwa led government to expedite the licensing of community radio stations (CRs) so as to widen sources of information to citizens during times of trouble like these (Cyclone Idai).
MISA-Zimbabwe says in light of the recent and still unfolding dangers of Cyclone Idai localised radio stations could have played key role in relaying the disaster information, and give real-time weather updates that could have helped save lives.
MISA-Zimbabwe seeks to promote free flow, access to information and professionalism among media practitioners as means of nurturing democracy in Zimbabwe, and believes an open media spectrum is key to communities well-being.
The media body says community radio stations are critical in keeping communities informed, and it is therefore important for the government to speed up their licensing.
“Light-hearted but accurate look at the huge role community radio stations could have played in warning Eastern Highlands communities about cyclone Idai,” says MISA-Zimbabwe.
The role of community radios cannot be overemphasized as they work within communities, bringing to light issues affecting them at a local level, thereby fostering development, media analysts believe.
Meanwhile, media advocates are of the notion that community radios can also have a competitive edge in that they generate localised news and in local languages that communities can easily identify with.
MISA-Zimbabwe says that community radio stations are a necessity in keeping communities informed, and at the same time saving lives. People perish because of lack of information.
According to Amnesty International (AI) an international human rights advocacy organization, the benefits of CRs is that they serve a recognisable community, and encourage participatory democracy.
AI also says under normal circumstances, CRs are motivated by communities’ well being, and not by commercial considerations, therefore are helpful to society.
During the unfolding cyclone, most Zimbabweans now have to rely heavily on the country’s centralised media houses, social media such as Twitter, WhatsApp, as well as videos being uploaded on YouTube by small organisations like Bustop TV and others.
Since independence in 1980, Zimbabweans have been contending with limited access to information, amid repressive media laws.
The ZANU-PF government has been dragging its feet in opening up the airwaves to allow private radio and/or television stations. This has seen many Zimbabwean citizens turning to foreign stations via satellite dishes, while online news sites have also played their part in keeping the nation informed.