There are reports from Zimbabwe indicating that the crackdown on independent radio is stepping up. Shortwave station SW Radio Africa reports that police in the town of Rusape went on raids of opposition party supporters looking for shortwave radios (via SWLing post). However a member of parliament said that the police found no radios.
According to UK-based New Zimbabwe the community FM station Radio Dialogue, based in Bulawayo, was raided by police on March 1. The station’s lawyer says, “the charges are along the lines of having radios that have not been declared.” The station’s editor Zenzele Ndebele was arrested, and 180 radios were seized.
Ndebele was due to appear in court on Tuesday, but the appearance was cancelled. The cancellation is seen as indication that the police know they will have a difficult time making their case in court.
Ironically, on Monday, the state-owned Chronicle newspaper, also based in Bulawayo, ran an editorial in support of community radio. Author Emmanuel Ndlovu reports that the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity said that the government is “committed to opening up airwaves particularly for community radios,” as part of remarks made in honor of World Radio Day last month. No mention is made in this piece about Radio Dialogue or the action against shortwave receivers.
The government effort to seize shortwave radios and suppress independent media voices comes ahead of a constitutional referendum later this month and a general election later in the year. Shortwave stations not controlled by President Mugabe’s government broadcast from outside the country’s borders, airing voices critical government which are not heard on state-owned media or newly established independent commercial stations which are aligned with Mugabe.