Zimbabwe is shortly to roll out a 24-hour shortwave radio station called News 24/7 in the aim of countering what it says is a barrage of foreign propaganda - among others from VOA which provides 90 minutes of news to Zimbabwe five nights a week.
News 24/7 will inaugurate programming on Wednesday, April 18 - Independence Day in Zimbabwe - broadcasting from Gweru, capital of Midlands Province.
Reports said the around-the-clock news operation is being funded by Iran at a cost of Z$8.9 billion - about US$35.6 million at the official exchange rate though more like US$6 million at the prevailing parallel market rate of Z$15,000 per greenback.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu declined to comment on the new station until after it is launched next Wednesday. Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga confirmed to parliament earlier this year that the government is jamming foreign broadcasts from VOA's Studio 7 and London-based SW Radio Africa.
Zimbabwe has not authorized any private broadcasters to operate.
Gweru residents told correspondent Taurai Shava of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that they consider the shortwave project to be a waste of money given that the state broadcasting monopoly already operates a number of radio stations.
Media analysts said Harare's launch of the station would further tighten its grip on an already constricted media environment, and that its statement that it wants to tell "the true Zimbabwe story,” means that it wants to spread its own propaganda wider.
News 24/7 will operate under state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings and will be headed by former senior ZBC broadcaster Happison Muchechetere.
For perspective on the new media venture, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye turned to experts Andrew Moyse, coordinator of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, and Rashweat Mukundu, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe.
Mukundu said the new station expands Harare’s near-monopoly in broadcasting.