Via Media Alliance release: The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe condemns a de facto ban on radio sets arbitrarily imposed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) as reported in the local media this week. This ban has been imposed on the allegation that such radios would be used to disseminate hate speech ahead of the referendum and elections.
According to a front-page Herald report on February 19th, the police have confiscated hundreds of “communication devices”, including “specially designed radios” that the police claimed were being distributed “illegally” by political parties and non-governmental organizations to “needy communities” around the country.
The Herald was reporting on ZRP chief spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, announcement made at a Press conference, held by the ZRP on February 18 that possession and distribution of “such devices” was illegal.
“We have information that some people or political parties are engaging in illegal activities … distributing illegal communicating devices to unsuspecting members of the public,” Charamba is reported as saying.
Assistant Commissioner Charamba claimed the intentions of “such people” was “to create and sow seeds of disharmony within the country, especially now that the country is about to embark on the referendum and harmonised elections”.
The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe believes that owning and distributing radio receivers is not illegal and that confiscating them is a gross violation of citizens’ rights to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, as enshrined in Section 20 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution.
Radio has the widest geographical reach and the largest audience of all mass media in Zimbabwe because of its affordability, therefore making it the most important source of information for most people, especially in the rural areas.
The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe is concerned that confiscating these radios and declaring them illegal will deprive people of an important means of accessing information at this critical period when national processes of Constitution-making, the referendum and elections are taking place.
MAZ therefore urges the ZRP to reverse its arbitrary ban on radios and to stop confiscating these devices, as this violates citizens’ constitutional rights to receive information and to make informed decisions on issues that affect their lives.
In view of the Government’s national, regional and international commitments to protect and respect citizens’ rights to access information, MAZ calls on the authorities to put an end to such illegal attempts to restrict the people’s right to choose where they access their news and information and to ensure secure platforms for accessing information for all citizens.
ABOUT THE MEDIA ALLIANCE OF ZIMBABWE
The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe is a partnership of media advocacy and representative groups in Zimbabwe working towards defending freedom of expression and freedom of the media. Since its formation, MAZ has been advocating for media law and policy reform, to ensure a free, fair, independent and pluralistic media.
Members of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe are: