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London-Based Broadcaster to Zimbabwe Takes Exception to Harare's 'Pirate' Label

SW Radio Africa founder Gerry Jackson says her station broadcasts legally to provide Zimbabweans with the news to which they are entitled

The founder of a London-based radio station that broadcasts to Zimbabwe took exception this week to a statement by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube saying talks within the Harare unity government focused on “pirate” radio stations as well as Western sanctions and top-level government appointments.

Ncube is a negotiator in the intra-governmental talks for the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, a rival to the larger MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The latest round of talks, urged by leaders of the Southern African Development Community and South African President Jacob Zuma in particular, are aimed at resolving a number of issues which were left unresolved at the inception of the unity government in February, or which have cropped up since then.

Short-Wave Radio Africa founder Gerry Jackson said her station, which like the Voice of America's Studio 7 provides news to Zimbabweans from outside the country's borders, is operating legally and is not controlled, as Zanu-PF has maintained, by the MDC, or aligned with the former opposition party.

"Guys – please – get a grip," Jackson stated in an editorial broadcast this week and published on the station's Web site. "We’re not controlled, owned or are even members of the MDC...Our broadcasts on shortwave and via the internet are completely legal and we want nothing more than a free, peaceful, democratic Zimbabwe. And yes we do believe that Zimbabweans have an absolute right to the information that has been denied them for so many years."

Jackson told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that she tried to launch her station in Zimbabwe in 2000 but it was quickly shut down by the government, obliging her to operation from London and broadcast on shortwave.