The Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) has condemned the continued suppression of media in Zimbabwe following the summoning by the courts of Radio Dialogue production manager Zenzele Ndebele to answer charges of contravening broadcasting laws.
Ndebele is being summoned for the second time in less than 12 months after his initial arrest on 1 March last year after a police raid on the station’s premises that led to the seizure of 180 radio sets.The case never took off.Ndebele is now expected to appear before a Bulawayo magistrate on 6 March facing allegations of contravening the broadcasting laws.
“It must be noted that the confiscated radios are ordinary Frequency Modulation (FM)/Short Wave(SW)/Amplitude Modulation(AM) receivers that have absolutely no transmitting capacity but are merely idle receivers. There is no law in Zimbabwe that is against the ownership of such radios,” Zacras said in a statement.
The organisation said it expected government to be supportive of media diversity and pluralism as well as promote people’s right to access of information and freedom of expression.”The move to summon anyone trying to help increase people’s choice is worrisome and deeply troubling.
“As a mother-body of community radios, we believe alternative sources of information apart from the state broadcaster are indispensable in a vibrant democracy as they contribute significantly to the modernization of society,” Zacras said.
“Several civic organisations and human rights activists were last year arrested for contravening broadcasting laws after police announced a ban on the possession of shortwave radio receivers, saying they were being used to communicate hate speech.”Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster, the ZBC, has a near monopoly over the airwaves.
There is demand among listeners and many human rights organisations for other viewpoints.”Zacras said right to receive and impart information and ideas is enshrined in Section 61 of the current constitution as a vital component of citizens’ right to freedom of expression.