Connecting communities through radio

Zimbabwe media stakeholders are set for Chiredzi to commemorate World Radio Day (WRD) 2022 under the national theme, “Connecting communities through radio”. This year’s edition of the WRD will be commemorated against a backdrop of the recent licensing of Community Radio Stations. The Government of Zimbabwe has thus far licensed 14 community radios.

The two day event is being led by the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services working with support from UNESCO and media stakeholders. Community radio volunteers will be trained on production and use of radio equipment. Additionally, the use of social media for radio will be part of the training sessions. 

The main event will be held at Tshovani Stadium on Sunday 13 February bringing together the community and radio stations from across Zimbabwe. All radio stations will convene in Chiredzi to exhibit and share information with the local community as well as to give community members gifts such as t-shirts, masks etc.

Radio is the biggest means of communication in Zimbabwe, which reaches the largest parts of the country especially the rural and marginalised areas. World radio day presents an opportunity to showcase what radio can do and this year’s global theme “Radio and Trust”, shows how radio remains one of the most trusted and used media in the world, according to different international reports. Radio understands what is important to its audiences, providing a forum to all human species including those at the periphery.

Establishment of community radios in Zimbabwe is an important step to serve information needs of marginalised communities. UNESCO is supporting the establishment of model community radios in disaster prone areas in Chimanimani and Chipinge through provision of equipment through funding support from the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) funded by the World Bank and UNOPS. Additionally, the radio stations will serve as a part of early warning systems for disasters such as cyclones.

Radio stations must serve the informational needs of all listeners and be a catalyst for integration and social participation - including persons with disabilities. Moreover, the understanding of digital technologies and social platforms is key to avoid circulation of unverified information. Investing in fact-checking, investigative journalism and verification of sources and content are some of the practices radio broadcasters could strengthen to keep audience trust.

Community media, whether broadcast or online, are crucial to ensuring media pluralism and freedom of expression, and are an indicator of a healthy democratic society. As an alternative medium to public and commercial media, as well as social media, they are characterized by their accountability to, and participation of, the communities they serve. They have a greater focus on local issues of concern and facilitate public platforms for debate and discussion.

Community radio in particular is crucial for providing an outreach mechanism for increased access to education, self-expression and communication among rural and hard-to-reach populations. Such stations allow communities a sense of ownership about their own development agenda, becoming self-empowered to publicly express opinion, debate issues, and promote the culture, history and language of their community.

In line with the recently-adopted Recommendations for Community Media Sustainability, the long term viability of community media must be encouraged through supportive policies and strategies, including legal recognition, fair access to spectrum and licensing, sustainable sources of funding and inclusion in considerations around digital transition.