Harare, July 12, 2014 – Police have surrendered equipment they seized
nine years ago from Voice of the People (VOP) radio station, one of
the few independent radio stations in Zimbabwe.
The equipment which the police confiscated in December 2005 when law
enforcement and state security agents raided the independent
broadcaster’s offices for allegedly breaching the country’s
broadcasting laws remained held by the police.
The equipment included some computers, recorders and files. During the
raid, the police also arrested and detained former staff members, journalists Maria Nyanyiwa-Mataruse,
Nyasha Bhosha and Kundai Mugwanda and the executive director
John Masuku for four nights and were later released on bail at the magistrates court.
The security agents who carried out the raid accompanied by officials from
the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) claimed that they were
looking for broadcasting and transmission equipment.
A month later, seven Radio VOP trustees namely David Masunda, a
veteran journalist, who was the board chairperson then, human rights
lawyers Arnold Tsunga (deputy chairperson) and the late Lawrence Chibwe, journalist and
gender activist Isabella Matambanadzo,journalist Millie Phiri, media researcher Nhlanhla
Ngwenya,staff and the exectuve director were later charged with running a radio station
without a licence from the BAZ. The
ten, represented by human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa were later set free ten months later
by a magistrate who dismissed the case before trial as a ‘circus’
due to lack of evidence.
However, on July 4, nine years later, Radio VOP executive director
Masuku in the company of the organisation’s lawyer Trust Maanda of
Maunga and Maanda Legal Practitioners, who is also a member of
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, recovered the seized computers
including a laptop, recorders and files from Harare Central Police
Station after being advised to do so by Detective Sergeant Guta of the
CID Law and Order Section. The police had been holding onto the
equipment as exhibits.
Radio VOP, which in June 2006 received the coveted One World Special Award
sponsored by the BBC World Service Trust in London for excellence in promoting
human rights and freedom of expression in a repressive media
environment has over the years survived police raids, frequency jams,
bombing of its offices, arrests of trustees and staff members.
Despite repressive media laws which have seen foreign correspondents
deported and several arrests and harassment of local journalists and
bombing and banning of newspaper printers Radio VOP, whose executive
director Masuku won the 2013 MISA-Zimbabwe Press Freedom Award for playing
a significant role in the defence and promotion of media freedom,
freedom of expression and the right to access to information currently
broadcasts a daily programme, providing a lifeline for several
dedicated listeners hungry for information about Zimbabwe.
Each day, Radio VOP broadcasts informative programmes in the country’s
three national languages – Shona, Ndebele and English on the free-to-air satellite ChannelZim and the Internet
after migrating from the Short Wave frequency.
It also runs a thriving website offering real-time news updates on Zimbabwe.
The station has unsuccessfully applied for an FM radio broadcasting licence three times since 2005.