by Nomalanga Moyo on March 1, 2013
By Nomalanga Moyo
01 March 2013
Media organisations in Zimbabwe have described the ongoing police ban on shortwave radios as “an onslaught on freedom of information” and a “gross violation of citizens’ rights” ahead of crucial polls.
The ban was announced on February 19th by Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, who claimed that the radios would be used to communicate hate speech ahead of this month’s constitutional referendum and elections set to be held later this year.
Media rights campaigners have condemned the escalating clampdown, saying the timing points to a determination by ZANU PF to prevent Zimbabweans from making informed choices in the forthcoming elections.
Patience Zirima, coordinator at the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (an umbrella group of journalists and editors), said there was no law in the country that prohibits anyone from possessing and distributing radio receivers.
She said: “Unless the police are a law unto themselves, owning the radio sets is not illegal, and confiscating them is a gross violation of citizens’ rights to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, as enshrined in section 20 of the constitution.”
Zirima added that the ban is exposing the hypocrisy of ZANU PF, which had relied on shortwave radios to disseminate information and to mobilise Zimbabweans against the colonial regime during the liberation struggle.
Earnest Mudzengi, director at the Media Centre, said the contempt for the constitution is nothing new and has always surged around election time.
“The current wave of attacks on free speech is not surprising, this is the season. ZANU PF is simply ensuring that the environment permits it to win and the police are simply being used as foot soldiers.
“The police know that they are acting illegally, that is why they have changed their reasons and are now claiming they are confiscating the radios because they were smuggled into the country.”
Mudzengi said the timing also suggests that ZANU PF is desperate to control what information gets to the people, by confining their access to state-controlled ZBC propaganda only.
“ZANU PF is aware of the power of radio to dislodge unpopular regimes and that is why they are closing every possible avenue that has the potential to enlighten ordinary Zimbabweans.
“They know enlightened citizens make clever political choices,” Mudzengi added.