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Stronger legislation needed to sustain community radio

One of the most critical impediments to community radio is inadequate legislation says the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) in its latest report.

Community radio facilitates public discourse and confrontation of development challenges but a significant barrier is the "lack of recognition of the social importance of community radio in the legislation" which limits the human, financial and technical resources needed to sustain it, says AMARC, in its 2008 annual report.

The report tackles several other obstacles for community radio, such as repression of journalists, training and knowledge of content development due to the high turnover of volunteers and journalists, and the transition from FM band to digital radio. "This calls for knowledge exchange and better coordination of action alerts, solidarity alerts and international missions of observation," the report says.

The report marks 25 years of the community media movement and a commitment to media diversity and social change. Some of the key successes over the years include the adoption of the Principles for a Democratic Legislation for Community Radio. As well, community media was recognised in UNESCO's Maputo Declaration on World Press Freedom Day last year, which noted, "in particular, the role of community broadcasters in fostering underrepresented or marginalised populations" access to information, voice and participation in decision making processes."

AMARC also discusses the necessity of challenging those who decide on legislation as well as providing support on a grassroots level to help sustain democratic free speech through community radio.

Numerous achievements in that regard include an AMARC workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in August, on the role of community radio in disaster preparedness and management; and the publication of a book in Accra, Ghana, called "Women Empowerment and Good Governance Through Community Radio".

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