VOP raided

BY LANCE GUMA Three journalists from an independent radio station, Voice of the People (VOP), who were arrested by police during a raid on their offices last week, have been told they will be charged under two separate but similar press laws. Maria Nyanyiwa, Kundai Mugwanda and Nyasha Bosha w

ho are being held at Harare Central Police Station will face charges under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) for allegedly practising without accreditation. A further charge under the Broadcasting Act for allegedly operating an illegal radio station without a licence is set to be added to the case.

The station has been operating in the country as a Communication Trust since its creation in 2000. According to Itayi Zimunya from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the police are still looking for the station manager John Masuku, Chairperson David Masunda and Editor Shorai Kariwa. They have since told lawyers for the journalists that their clients will not be released until the radio station’s directors hand themselves over.

Five Central Intelligence operatives raided the stations offices in Beverly Court Building, Harare. After failing to find any broadcasting equipment, they confiscated computers, tapes and files before arresting the three journalists present. They also asked for John Masuku, the station manager who was away at the time. Its reported they produced a search warrant which according to witnesses stated that the CIO had reason to believe Masuku was in possession of subversive materials and that the warrant empowered them to search the offices.

Government recently started jamming the shortwave transmissions of the station, which broadcasts in the country via a Radio Netherlands transmitter in Madagascar. This happened soon after SWRA switched to medium wave following persistent jamming of its own signal. In August 2002, VOP’s offices in Milton Park were destroyed by a bomb blast. The blast also completely destroyed their production facilities. This took place soon after threats by government officials on the operations of private radio stations in and outside the country. – SW Radio Africa

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the arrests. “Robert Mugabe’s government is cracking down harder on dissenting news media and, in the face of an economic and political crisis, is behaving in an increasingly despotic manner,” the press freedom organisation said.

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