The Zambian government has threatened to cancel licenses of community
radio stations if they don’t stick to their licence conditions, writes
Ellen Chikale.

Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services David Phiri made the warning after he toured Radio Mario, a community radio station in the eastern province of Zambia.

But the chairperson of the Zambian chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Misa, Father Frank Bwalya, said MISA is deeply concerned about the deputy minister’s utterances.

“It is unfortunate that such comments are coming from a government that has seen the benefits of a diverse, independent and objective media as evidenced by the coverage of the tripartite elections last September. Community radio stations played a vital role in disseminating information as well as transmission of results. Therefore, what we expect government to do this time around is commend the media for their role that helped to calm peoples’ emotions and tension in the country during the aftermath of the elections in particular, “ Bwalya said.

He further added that, “Our analysis is that government is insecure with a free, independent and objective media, one that gives a voice to everyone in the community, including those with dissenting views and independent opinion critical though it may be. But these are in fact the values of a democratic and free society. It surprises us to note that instead of government utilising community radio stations to further development, they are busy trying to prevent other people from using these vital avenues for sharing information.”

Bwalya has appealed to government to stop making such destructive comments. He assured community radio stations and other media houses that are being unfairly criticised by government of Misa’s unwavering support.

Recently, community radio stations have been featuring opposition party leaders criticizing the government on a number of issues.

In another development, the Barotse Royal Establishment has banned a community station, Oblate Radio Liseli, from playing music that the majority of people in its area do not speak or understand.

The area is a Lozi-dominated area and the Barotse Royal Establishment, the area’s traditional authority, has ordered the station not to play music from the minority Nyanja and Bemba groups but only Lozi music.