The Voice of America (VOA) has expanded its Studio 7 broadcasts to Zimbabwe with the addition of one-hour programs Saturday and Sunday in response to the country’s deepening crisis, upcoming elections and state jamming of VOA signals.
The expansion, implemented on the weekend of Aug. 18-19, bolstered Studio 7's previous schedule of 90-minute evening broadcasts Monday through Friday
Studio 7 programs now air seven days a week at 7 p.m. Zimbabwe time (1700 UTC) on 909 medium wave and on 4930, 13755 and 15775 kiloHertz shortwave.
The weekend programs comprise 20-minute segments in the indigenous Shona and Ndebele languages as well as English, which is widely spoken in Zimbabwe.
VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe has been on the air since January 2003 and posted strong audience growth through 2005 and 2006 to establish an audience of more than 1 million listeners in the Southern African country. Jamming of Studio 7’s medium-wave signal began in mid-2006 and the government has acknowledged it is responsible.
The Saturday-Sunday programs will pursue breaking or developing stories while presenting discussions on critical topics including the continuing political and economic crisis, efforts to mediate a solution to the crisis, intensifying shortages of food and other essential goods, and efforts to stem a major HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Studio 7 will add audience participation to the mix with callbacks to listeners who would like to express their views on news topics, especially in the run-up to the general and presidential elections to be held in March 2008.
Since its inception, Studio 7 has established itself in Zimbabwe as a reliable source of objective and balanced news and analysis of the evolving crisis that has pitted the government and ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and civil society groups.
Studio 7 is produced by the Zimbabwe Project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and is managed and operated by the Voice of America.
Studio 7 is edited by a staff of Zimbabwean emigré journalists and contributors on the ground in Zimbabwe. On the Web (http://www.studio7news.com) Studio offers reports in English, Shona and Ndebele, and e-mail newsletters in all three languages. Web visitors can also listen to Studio 7 daily programs through streaming audio.
Opposition leaders and civil society activists cite Studio 7 broadcasts as a major factor in the democratic reform process given the virtual exclusion of dissenting voices in the state media. Studio 7 provided extensive and balanced coverage of the 2005 general election and delivered intense, high-impact reporting on the government’s May-July 2005 campaign of forced evictions and home demolitions.
Reporter Carole Gombakomba’s telephone interviews with victims of the exercise received a 2006 commendation from the Association of International Broadcasting.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people in 45 languages.