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Zimbabwe Politicians Spar Over Jamming of Airwaves

Critics say jamming of external radio stations broadcasting to Zimbabwe would deny the majority of people access to alternative sources of information for making informed decisions.

They argue that President Robert Mugabe’s party wants to continue its domination of the airwaves in order to maintain the status quo.

But Zanu PF officials maintain that these radio stations are breaking the law and should be jammed.

At the former ruling party’s annual conference that concluded last weekend, Zanu PF leaders called for the jamming of radio stations such as VOA Studio 7, Radio Voice of the People and SW Radio Africa that continue to broadcast from various nations.

While party spokesman Rugare Gumbo acknowledged that Zanu PF does not currently have the technology or money to block the broadcasts, he said delegates at the conference felt that “jamming is necessary because these radio stations promote what he termed an illegal regime change agenda”.

A senior Zanu PF official, Olivia Muchena, was quoted at the conference as saying it was important to jam what she labeled “hostile foreign media,” particularly in areas where state-run radio and TV are not available.

Media research indicates that Studio 7 and other external broadcasters enjoy sizable audiences in Zimbabwe.

Some stations, such as Voice of the People, broadcast from outside because they have been denied authorization to broadcast on FM from within Zimbabwe.

For perspective, reporter Violet Gonda spoke to the Movement for Democratic Change’s Settlement Chikwinya, the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio on Media Information, Publicity and Communications Technology, and Zanu PF’s Simba Mudarikwa, who sits on the same parliamentary committee.

Harare has been jamming the radio stations in the past few years.
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