On World Press Freedom Day, Amnesty USA is calling attention to fearless journalists fighting every day to tell the stories that matter and remind us how fragile freedom of expression remains. Repression of journalists, including imprisonment, violence and even death, continues frequently in many places around the world. In Zimbabwe, media repression opened significantly in the past year, with the government allowing foreign reporters to return to the country. But the government continues to lock down domestic reporting.
The only daily newspapers, radio and TV stations in Zimbabwe are state run. The Global Political Agreement (GPA), signed by Zimbabwe’s three main political parties in September 2008, provided for “the immediate processing of all applications for registration in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act”. Despite this, repressive legislation restricting the ability of the independent media to operate remains in place. More than a year since it was created, the new government has failed to honour its commitment to issue licences.
Radio Dialogue is a non-profit community radio station consistently denied a licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) since it’s foundation in 2001. The station aspires to broadcast to the community of Bulawayo and its surrounding areas, engaging in discussions of political, social, cultural and economic issues affecting the community. Their slogan ‘Giving You a Voice’ expresses their aim to enable all sections of the community to engage as a means of promoting tolerance, understanding and community relations.
Radio Dialogue submitted its application to the BAZ in January 2005 along other broadcasting applicants. None of the applicants were issued a licence. Over the past five years Radio Dialogue representatives have repeatedly met with the government officials on the issue of obtaining a broadcasting licence but to no avail. Radio Dialogue’s staff have been subject to harassment and intimidation by the Zimbabwean authorities throughout their struggle for licensing. Journalists, publications and public meetings are tightly controlled and closely monitored by state agents.
The practice of journalism remains a dangerous occupation in Zimbabwe and many journalists and other media workers have been harassed, intimidated, arrested and detained since the political crisis began in Zimbabwe in 2000. Many have been forced to abandon their chosen profession. Those who struggle to continue their work remain at risk of being arbitrarily arrested and detained. Despite harassment and intimidation by state security agents, workers at Radio Dialogue have shown great courage in going about their day to day work. Determined to exercise their right to freedom of expression and to provide a medium for others to exercise this right as well, the staff of Radio Dialogue defy the obstacles put in their way by the state and give people in their community a voice by holding road shows.
Join us in calling on the Zimbabwe authorities to license Radio Dialogue. License free dialogue in Zimbabwe!