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Zimbabwe confiscates more radios to block independent broadcasts
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
January 22, 2007

At least 42 radios are reported to have been confiscated by state security agents in rural areas, allegedly to stop people listening to independent radio broadcasts. Several teachers are said to have fled some schools while others have been sent on forced leave as a result of intimidation and harassment in the Midlands and Mashonaland East areas. The radios were distributed to several groups, especially teachers, to form organised radio listening clubs in remote areas to allow people to listen to independent news broadcasts from outside Zimbabwe.

Raymond Majongwe, the Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said: "I know for a fact that government agents are visiting schools and basically looking for the radios as well as getting specific information about those people who belong to the PTUZ."

Majongwe said so-called state agents are illegally forcing the teachers to provide their family histories to intimidate them. He said radios are being confiscated and unspecified action is threatened to those teachers who don't hand them over. Most of this is happening in the Midlands area, especially Mberengwa and Gokwe.

It's also reported that several teachers have also fled Mashonaland East. The Governor of Mashonaland East Ray Kaukonde, was seen on national television threatening people who had received radios. Majongwe confirmed seeing the governor saying the people should be given food and not radios. We were not able to get a comment from Kaukonde but Majongwe said: "The issue is not about food it's about access to information."

Just last month we reported how two lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights were also subjected to harassment and intimidation by state agents in Gokwe when they were trying to serve them with a court order. The police and the state agents were ordered by the court to return several radios that had been confiscated but Gokwe police refused to serve the court papers.

Majongwe told us that the court case will be heard at the magistrates' court in Gokwe on Tuesday.

There are no independent broadcasts from Zimbabwe. A sustained assault on press freedoms has resulted in nearly all Zimbabwe's free media now operating outside the country.

The government has been embarking on a systematic and relentless campaign to block stations like SW Radio Africa and Studio 7 from being heard by jamming broadcast frequencies.

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