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Presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications
Radio Voice of the People (VOP) Communications Trust
April 05, 2004

Radio Voice of the People (VOP was established in the year 2000 and went on air a few weeks before the first Parliamentary elections of this millennium. At its inception VOP was no more than a loosely co-ordinated effort by concerned Zimbabweans yearning for diversity on the country’s airwaves.

The primary motivation behind the VOP initiative was the creation of a platform where ordinary Zimbabweans could dialogue about burning issues of the day.

It was hoped that this dialogic approach including discussion programmes and brief comments from the people (hence the name ‘Voice of the People’) would generate solutions to the national crisis. The target audience of Radio VOP was defined as the disenfranchised sections of the Zimbabwean populace falling outside the ambit of the reach of mainstream media.

VOP’s Vision
To promote a free and democratic society that will empower Zimbaweans, encourage dialogue, tolerance and the sharing of ideas by people from all walks of life.

VOP’s Mission
To broadcast ideas and information for the general development of the country socially, politically and culturally and to provide a credible alternative an independent voice for Zimbabweans.

VOP’s Objectives

  • To provide an alternative voice on Zimbabwe’s airwaves characterised by in depth analysis of issues
  • To cover issues on nation building which would not make it to the state-owned stations.
  • To promote and protect the principles of pluralism and diversity in the media.
  • To encourage the development of participatory democracy in Zimbabwe in the areas of health, governance, parliament, business development, gender, agriculture and the environment especially following the land resettlement programme.
  • To present balanced and impartial news coverage for the general development of the country socially, politically and culturally.

Challenges since 2000
SINCE inception VOP has operated within a very prohibitive legislative framework and extremely precarious and highly polarized political environment.

After its launch there were indications that government would truly liberalise the airwaves especially after Capital Radio successfully challenged the monopoly of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). But that has not happened even after the enactment of the Broadcasting Services Act, which provided for the setting up of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. So far, no new radio and television stations have been licensed.

Because of the prevailing legal restrictions VOP could not put up transmitters within Zimbabwe which is why it broadcasts via Radio Netherlands. The advent of the Access to information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) has imposed further restrictions on the operations of journalists especially those from organisations perceived to be critical of government by merely publishing or broadcasting alternative views. Even those wanting to practise with stations like VOP have a problem in getting registration from the Media and Information Commission in that they work for stations that are not licensed in Zimbabwe.

Radio VOP offices were bombed on 29 August 2002 by some unknown assailants and up to now the law enforcement agents have not brought them to book.

Before and after the bombing some senior government officials – notably the Minister of Information and Publicity in Office of the President – made negative remarks about VOP alleging that it was a Western funded pirate radio station which promoted ethnic hatred, a position which is far from the truth as can be seen from VOP’s mission, objectives, values and editorial policy.

Prior to such statements being made many government ministers, officials and members of the ruling party were always willing to be interviewed on VOP.

Although we were bombed in 2002 and our reporters continue to be harassed and arrested, VOP is on air every night for an hour between 7 PM and 8 PM. Our frequency is 7120KHz on the 41-meter band on short wave.

Visit the VOP fact sheet

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