MISA condemns SADC’s position

Media organisations have condemned recent statements by SADC calling for the closure of radio stations broadcasting to Zimbabwe from abroad.

A SADC election observation team, in its final report on the July 31 elections, called for the closure of the stations, a position the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe described as misinformed and unfortunate.

MISA Zimbabwe chairman, Njabulo Ncube, told The Zimbabwean that the comments showed SADC’s ignorance about the state of the local media.

“I think SADC is ill-informed because it doesn’t seem to understand why those stations were set up in the first place. It was Zanu (PF)’s refusal to open up the airwaves that led to this situation,” Ncube said. “Those stations are filling a vacuum created by the shambolic and partisan ZBC.”

Ncube said SADC over-stepped the mark by making such a call. Instead, the regional body should have called on President Robert Mugabe’s government to allow a diversity of views to be aired to the nation.

“ZBC sounds more like an appendage of Zanu (PF)’s propaganda machinery,” he said.

Another issue SADC failed to realise was that the two new radio stations granted operating licences, have close links with the ruling party.

“The Star FM chairman, Paul Chimedza, is a Zanu (PF) legislator from Masvingo Province and ZiFM is owned by another Zanu (PF) legislator from Manicaland, Supa Mandiwanzira,” he said.

Foster Dongozi, the secretary general of Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, said he concurred with Ncube’s views. He said SADC’s comments were strange since the bloc was supposed to oversee the issue of media reform under the Global Political Agreement.

“Under the GPA, SADC was supposed to guarantee the implementation of media reforms. So the question should be thrown back to them,” he said.

“These stations are a result of the conditions in the country,” added Patience Zirima, the coordinator of Zimbabwe Media Alliance. “The state’s broadcasting monopoly has closed off Zimbabweans from hearing alternative voices and views.”

Zirima said there were fears of a fresh government clampdown on foreign-based broadcasting stations.

Civil society and opposition political parties have condemned the SADC report as factually wrong. Stations broadcasting from outside Zimbabwe include Studio 7 and SW Radio, providing an alternative source of news to millions of people at home and in the Diaspora.

Ncube said it was wrong to label the external services pirate stations when they were run by Zimbabweans who are unable to work in their own country due to state meddling in broadcasting.

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