Police in Mashonaland East have launched a blitz confiscating Short Wave radio sets parcelled out to villagers by non-governmental organisations campaigning for the freeing of the airwaves.
Information obtained by Radio VOP on Thursday indicated that the police had been raiding homesteads starting with Murehwa centre in search of the “offending” SW radio sets, in what civil society organisations view as part of a Zanu (PF) strategy to stop rural folk from accessing alternative media sources other than the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
Due to ZBC’s partisan reporting in favour of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF), Non-governmental organisations have been doling out free SW radios to enable villagers to tune into foreign-based radio stations which beam into the country such as Radio VOP, SW Radio Africa and and the Washington-based Studio Seven run by the Voice of America.
An official with ZimRights told Radio VOP that police officers in the company of members of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) are going around Murehwa District threatening villagers in possession of the NGO donated sets before proceeding to confiscate them.
“Three men from Chitowa village fell victim to this police raid early this week and they have been able to identify the police details as Constables Sibanda and Basopo,” said the source.
In a statement to Radio VOP confirming the police actions, ZimRights in Harare said police claimed the distribution of the radio sets were done “behind their backs and without their knowledge.”
“Consequently, they (police) question the motive of the organisations in giving the radios behind their back,” said ZimRights.
“They argue that the radios are propaganda driving tools meant to discredit the government. The police claimed that with the radios, the people cannot access official Zimbabwe radio stations. They also cited ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) complaints about evasion of tax during the importation of the radios,” it added.
National police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena said he was not aware of the incidents but promised to investigate.
ZimRights said it was demanding an immediate stop to the victimisation of rural people as well as the violation of their right to access to information and freedom of expression.
“Police should practice what they are mandated to do instead of pursuing political agendas, an undesirable characteristic of state security,” said ZimRights.
Despite media reforms being top of the agenda of the government of national unity, Zanu (PF) is refusing to free the airwaves. – Addtional reporting by: Radio VOP