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Riot police call-off Radio Dialogue ZITF roadshow
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS)
April 29, 2012

Riot police in Bulawayo called-off a roadshow organised by Radio Dialogue at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), on the 28th of April 2012.

In calling-off the roadshow, police cited that there was not enough space to enable the holding of the activity, 4 hours after its commencement.

Contrary to the police' assertion, there was evidence of expansive space to accommodate more community members to participate in the roadshow. Radio Dialogue has utilised the same space for the past five years, and obtains clearances from the Bulawayo City Council to hold its annual ZITF roadshows.

It is ZACRAS' belief that, the increase in the systematic onslaught on Radio Dialogue and its activities is a result of comments made by the Governor and Resident Minister of Bulawayo and ZANU-PF Deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity, Cain Mathema, during the ZANU-PF 12th Annual National People's Conference held in December 2011.

While addressing delegates at the conference, Mathema labelled Radio Dialogue and a number of non-governmental organisations as seeking to reverse the gains of independence by preaching regime change.

In March 2012, the Bulawayo Central Police District went on to decline Radio Dialogue a clearance to hold a free-the airwaves procession. The procession was part of proceedings for a community radio conference which was held by the community radio, in partnership with ZACRAS and Bulawayo Agenda on the 21st of March 2012.

ZACRAS is convinced that the police in Bulawayo are seeking to frustrate Radio Dialogue so as to derail the community radio from its mandate of serving the community of Bulawayo, through promoting access to information and participation in governance issues. It is disturbing that in a bid to advance certain political interests, certain provisions of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) are wantonly used to deprive citizens their rights.

It is distressing that the latest disturbance of Radio Dialogue's roadshow comes a few days before the universal commemoration of the annual World Press Freedom Day, on the 3rd of May. The Radio Dialogue incident stands testimony to the deplorable state of Zimbabwe's media operational environment, which deprives the media and citizens their fundamental freedoms.

ZACRAS' reiterates the need for the new Zimbabwe Constitution to explicitly guarantee and protect citizens' right to freedom of association, assembly, expression and access to information.
This should be bolstered by supporting legislation which recognises and advances the enjoyment of these rights without unwarranted breach.

Presently, legislation such as POSA vest too much power in the police, who end up infringing on citizen's fundamental freedoms under the pretext of safeguarding public order and safety.

Noting the developmental purpose of community radios, ZACRAS calls upon various stakeholders, amongst them the police force, to augment community radio operations and not be a stumbling block in the advancement of community radio interests.

The Radio Dialogue 2012 ZITF roadshow was organised in conjunction with churches and civil society in Bulawayo, in a bid to promote peace building amongst community members.

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