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Community Radios Will Improve Access To Information In Areas Prone To Disasters

By Clayton Masekesa

MUTARE – Community broadcasting is set to improve communication in Chimanimani , Manicaland province that was hit by Cyclone Idai that left a trail of destruction in 2019.

The government recently issued six community radio and television licences as part of efforts to decentralise access to information countrywide.

Chimanimani Community Radio is one of the recently licensed community radio stations.

Chimanimani on Monday played host to the Universal Access to Information Day following its impressive state of preparedness to go on air.

In an interview with this publication on Monday on the sidelines of a Crisis Reporting workshop organized by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Panganai Chirongera, who is the Chimanimani Rural District Council Deputy Chairperson and ward 15 councilor said timely dissemination of information especially in local languages is critical during disasters and emergency situations.

“If there was a community radio station in the area, the disaster which occurred there could have been minimized,” said Chirongera.

“Damages and loss of life can be reduced as timely information ensures that communities take mitigation measures well in advance,” he added.

“The community radio station will play a critical role to disseminate life-saving and real-time messages through public service announcements and ensure that what happened in 2019 during Cyclone Idai does not recur,” Chirongera said.

He said he was hopeful that Chimanimani Community Radio would be able to provide early warning systems and emergency responses in case of any future disaster.

He added: “The early response systems would be achieved through linkages between community radios, community communications mechanisms and regional and national mechanisms.”
He said the community radio will form part of the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project’s community early warning system which aims at strengthening community resilience to disasters and emergencies in the region.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa and the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services with funding from the World Bank under the UNOPS managed Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) has donated radio broadcasting equipment to the community radio.
The equipment was handed over to the community radio station during this year’s commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information.

In addition to procuring equipment, UNESCO is providing technical support and capacity building trainings to support community radio practitioners.
In a recent tour of the community radio station, the Chief Director in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Jonathan Gandari said the government remains committed to opening up the airwaves.

“We have often been blamed as not willing to issue out licences but as the Second Republic, we are going to ensure that all voices are heard and this visit is testimony towards that commitment,” he said.

The issuance of a license to Chimanimani Community Radio station comes after the launch the My Freedom of Information (MFoI) Campaign recently.

Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, who is the part of the founders said:
“This campaign is designed to promote the Freedom of Information Act so that citizens, especially minorities and journalists, may assert their rights to access to information.”

Mashayamombe has applauded the new Freedom of Information Act as a comprehensive law that promotes the much-needed freedom of expression and access to information in the country.