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Confiscation of radios from individuals in some rural communities
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2006-49
Monday December 4th 2006 - December 10th 2006

DURING the week the private electronic media reported on developments that exposed the authorities' determination to maintain their stranglehold on the free flow of information by confiscating radios from individuals in some rural communities. On Monday (4/12) SW Radio Africa reported that security agents were confiscating FM/Short Wave radio sets donated by a civic body, Radio Communication Project, to some rural communities that enabled them to access independent news broadcasts.

The station quoted MDC officials claiming that Central Intelligence Organisation operatives in Mberengwa were allegedly "following up on some of the recipients and taking the radios away" promising to return them after "completing investigations".

The following day Studio 7 reported Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe leader Raymond Majongwe alleging that radio sets had been confiscated by security agents from teachers in Midlands province.

However, none of the reports sought official corroboration.

Such crudely authoritarian measures expose the authorities' fear of free expression and their evident attempts to condemn Zimbabweans to ignorance about important issues affecting their lives. To make matters worse, recent media reports revealed that the country's broadcasting infrastructure was now so obsolete and dilapidated that only 30% of Zimbabwe was now being covered. The Zimbabwe Independent (1/12), for example, reported Transmedia Corporation chief executive officer Alfred Mandere warning that the country "faces the risk of a television and radio signal blackout" if the "antiquated" broadcasting equipment, in use for the past 40 years, is not urgently refurbished or replaced.

The Herald (21/11 & 1/12) carried similar reports.

However, while the paper (21/11) quoted Mandere saying the upgrading of the equipment would result in the addition of two more FM radio networks and the "establishment of 59 community radio stations that are expected to be functioning by the end of 2007", it did not investigate whether these would be privately owned or just an extension of government's already pervasive media empire.

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