Radio Dialogue's manager summoned

Radio Dialogue Production Manager Zenzele Ndebele was on Friday summoned to appear before a Bulawayo Magistrate on 6 March on charges of contravening broadcasting laws.

The summons follows Ndebele’s arrest on 1 March 2013 based on vague legal grounds during a police crackdown on media and rights groups when they raided Radio Dialogue and seized 180 radio sets.

Ndebele subsequently appeared in court on April 18 but the case never took off.

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.

Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations expect the government to be supportive of media diversity and pluralism and that it should 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.

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.

The importance of a radio set cannot be over-emphasised as it is a generally affordable gadget used for receiving information by the public. The 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.

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