Community Radio Harare (CORAH) is one of the main community radio stations in Zimbabwe. Based out of the capital city, they have been using Freedom Fone since October 2010 as an alternative to broadcast for Free Voices Harare, a community news programme.
Despite a political agreement signed in 2009 promising to liberalise media channels in Zimbabwe, no independent or community radio station currently has a licence to broadcast (May 2012). While CORAH waits for the government to issue operating licences, using Freedom Fone as a means of community outreach makes sense due to the widespread access to mobile phones.
CORAH used Freedom Fone to established Free Voices Harare as a citizen media initiative to encourage self-expression in marginalised communities around Harare. The service receives around 50 calls a day.
"We have trained citizen journalists in 30 wards so in each of those areas there are people who are trained to use Freedom Fone. People know how to phone in and deliver voice or text messages and even to listen to news, radio documentaries and then impart that information to their communities as well."
-- Givemore Chipere, Programming Manager, CORAH
CORAH is often first to break with local news stories thanks to the tips they receive from their network of community reporters.
CORAH realised that the inability to transmit via traditional radio actually presented opportunities for experimenting with new solutions for engaging with their community. Freedom Fone was particularly useful because it gave people a platform to not only listen to news but also to share news tips and eye witness reports from their areas via text or voice message.
"We saw it as an opportunity to offer people a platform for self-expression and it is working quite well because we are not using the regulated radio frequencies that the government does not want people to use. We found it as a very innovative way to offer people a means of self-expression," explains Chipere.
Despite major challenges and lack of resources, Community Radio Harare continues to use Freedom Fone in conjunction with other media platforms like bulk-SMS, audio documentaries, website (www.corah.org.zw) and e-newsletters to build community listenership and participation. As Chipere notes, all of the information they receive through their Freedom Fone service serves both as content for their news service and helps to inform future programmes.
"Platforms like Freedom Fone allow people to communicate, allow people to broadcast in one way or another without using the regulated frequencies that the broadcasting authorities are holding on to. The growth in IT will present us with many opportunities for self-expression and communication."
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