THE Ministry of Information has said it will soon summon the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to explain why it has not issued licences to private broadcasters more than two years after being given a mandate to do so, a government official has said.
Deputy Information minister Bright Matonga said in Bulawayo last week he would summon BAZ officials to ascertain why they had not issued any operating licences.
BAZ has so far not issued anyone with a private broadcasting licence despite several advertisements inviting applications.
“The government has no problems with opening the airwaves and we will have to summon BAZ soon to establish why they have not issued anyone with a licence,” Matonga said.
BAZ was set up under the Broadcasting Services Act in 2002 to regulate broadcasting services in the country by issuing licences to new players. This followed a Supreme Court ruling striking down ZBC’s monopoly.
However, Zimbabwe’s electronic media is still a de facto monopoly dominated by the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH), making the country the only one in the region without private broadcasters.
In March, the Parliamentary Portfolio on Transport and Communications chairman Leo Mugabe expressed similar concerns when he visited Radio Dialogue studios in Bulawayo to find out the station’s preparedness for broadcasting.
Radio Dialogue is one of the initiatives for a community radio station and those behind the project say they are ready to broadcast if granted a licence.
Matonga said government would allow independent television and radio stations in the same way they gave permission to private newspapers.
However, Matonga said government would not repeal the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) which has been used to shut down several independent newspapers.
Matonga said the law had its good aspects that journalists did not fully appreciate.
“The problem is that journalists complaining about Aippa have never read the Act and they do not know that Aippa has clauses which empower them in accessing public information,” Matonga said.
“Last week I sent representations to the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists to come up with a paper outlining what journalists are not happy about in Aippa but I am yet to receive a response on that,” Matonga said.