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sabotage" of radio station's broadcasts
sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders
to the jamming noise MP3 file (178KB)
the systematic interference of the Zimbabwean independent radio
station Voice of the People (VOP) since 18 September, Reporters
Without Borders voiced outrage today at a campaign to jam dissident
radio broadcasts which the Zimbabwean authorities are clearly orchestrating
with Chinese help.
The press freedom organisation pointed out that this "state sabotage"
of VOP comes three years after it was the target of a still
unsolved bombing in the heart of Harare.
"Robert Mugabe's government has once again shown that its policy
is to systematically gag all independent news media," Reporters
Without Borders said. "The use of Chinese technology in a totally
hypocritical and non-transparent fashion reveals the government's
iron resolve to abolish freedom of opinion in Zimbabwe."
The press freedom organisation added: "We reiterate out belief that
Zimbabwe's progressive submission to the dictatorship of a single
view is being made possible by the incomprehensible failure of the
great African democracies to take a stand against this behaviour
by the Harare government."
VOP beams a radio programme to Zimbabwe every evening from
7 to 8 p.m. (18:00 to 19:00 GMT) on the 7.120KHz shortwave frequency
using a relay station belonging to the Dutch public radio station
Radio Netherlands on the island of Madagascar, in the Indian
"Our signal is no longer as clear as it is supposed to be," a
VOP employee told Reporters Without Borders. "There is a funny
noise and this is affecting our evening programme. We can say we
are being jammed." The VOP staff suspect that the government
is using sophisticated jamming equipment imported from China.
This hour of VOP programming has offered the sole opportunity
for Zimbabwean listeners to tune into to an alternative to the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) ever since deliberate
jamming of the London-based exile station SW Radio Africa
began in February. SW Radio Africa is no longer able to broadcast
on the short wave.
Voice of the People was created in June 2000 by former
ZBC employees with help from the Soros foundation and a Dutch
NGO, the HIVOS foundation. The police raided its studio in Harare
on 4 July 2002 and took away equipment. It was then the target of
a bombing on 29 August 2002 which wrecked the entire studio. It
was nonetheless able to resume broadcasting.
A frequently-used jamming technique is to broadcast a noise on the
same frequency as the target signal using another radio station's
transmitters. The power and location of these transmitters determine
the area where the jamming is effective. According to the information
obtained by Reporters Without Borders, VOP can now only be
heard in the rural part of Matabelele Land, an area not covered
by Zimbabwe's public radio station. This suggests that the noise
jamming VOP's programmes is being broadcast by the Zimbabwean
authorities using the public radio station.
These illegal practices, which violate international regulations
governing telecommunications, are one of the specialities of the
Chinese government. Jamming is standard practice in China, especially
the jamming of Tibetan radio stations and foreign radio stations
beaming programmes to the west of the country. A Reporters Without
Borders release described this policy as the "Great Wall of the
According to a source in Zimbabwe, a number of Chinese intelligence
officers have been stationed in a luxury hotel in Harare since January.
Chinese experts have been invited to give training in telecommunications
and radio communications to Zimbabwean technicians under economic
and technical cooperation accords signed between China and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's already significant relations with China have been stepped
up even more as a result of its diplomatic isolation, which culminated
in its departure from the Commonwealth in 2003. Ideological affinity
and interest in its natural resources have prompted the Chinese
to sign many political and trade accords. China has become the leading
foreign investor in Zimbabwe.
in the area of censorship may not be limited to radio broadcasts
and could also extend to the pirating of websites. Reporters Without
Borders has previously voiced concern about the Zimbabwean government's
acquisition of equipment that could be used to monitor Internet
traffic. But its expertise is almost certainly not up to using this
kind of equipment, which suggests that it has subcontracted the
implementation to its Chinese suppliers.
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