Government should come up with laws to govern the Zambia Community Media, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) has suggested.
PSAf said Zambia at the moment did not have a specific law that prescribed how the community media sector needed to operate and how this sector should be governed.
PSAf executive director Lilian Kiefer said this when she appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee on information and Broadcasting chaired by Kasempa member of Parliament Kabinga Pande
She said despite Zambia having one of the largest number of community radio stations in Southern Africa, there was no specific law that recognized that this was a unique non-profit making media sector that was community-led and owned and therefore strove to provide free of charge community broadcasting and announcements.
“Community radio focuses on issues that concern the community. It uses languages that are spoken in those areas and engages the local communities in the designing and production of local radio programmes on agriculture, poverty reduction, health, education and provision of vital information on government services in those areas. Community media provide a platform for informed debate and discussion in their promotion of good governance in the country,” Mrs. Kiefer.
She said it was for that reason that Zambia needed to put in place legislation that would among other things prescribe the way community media sector would operate and guarantee its existence.
“As PSAf, we would go further and ask that Parliament comes up with legislation that will form a community media fund that will be independently managed and from which community radios will apply to be assisted in improving their delivery of community services by upgrading their broadcast equipment, building the capacity of their staff to run the radios and report well and to boost their marketing skills so these radios are financially viable,” explained Mrs. Kiefer said.
She said community media faced several challenges that ranged from unclear licensing regulations that stop community media from raising funds, to political interferences from local district officials such as the district commissioners and police leadership.
“Community radios are forced to broadcast for free party and district or government announcements and when they ask that these office bearers pay for these adverts they are threatened with arrest and firing. Examples are the cases of Kasempa FM whose station manager was beaten by the council secretary and when he went to report the matter to Police, he was himself arrested by the police; and of Isoka FM where their AGM was disrupted by cadres from the ruling party who demanded that they be allowed to participate in the AGM so that they could be elected on the radio governing board,” Mrs. Kiefer said.