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Police ban radios
February 20, 2013
The police on
19 February 2013 banned possession of "specially designed
radios" and other communication devices on suspicion they
are being used to communicate hate speech ahead of Zimbabwe's
referendum and general elections.
Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba told a news conference in
Harare that possession and distribution of the devices in question
some political parties of distributing the 'illegal devices'
to unsuspecting members of the public with the intention "to
sow seeds of disharmony within the country especially now that the
country is about to embark on the referendum and harmonised elections".
The ban against
the "specially designed radios" and communication devices
came in the wake of a police raid
on the offices of the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN) offices in Harare and the southern
town of Masvingo.
is not certain as to the exact specifications of the "specially
designed radios" referred to by Charamba, these, however,
could be transistor or portable radios being distributed to enhance
citizens' right to access to information especially in remote
areas that do not have access to mainstream media.
notes with grave concern the recent move by police to confiscate
"communication devices" from the public, which devices
according to The Herald of 20 February 2013, includes radio sets.
concern to MISA-Zimbabwe is the lack of clarity on what exactly
these "communications devices" that were confiscated
were, as well as the lack of clarity on what basis the radio sets
or their distribution is also deemed illegal.
MISA-Zimbabwe calls upon the police to specifically state the exact
nature of the illegal devices and the relevant laws that criminalise
their possession as opposed to arbitrary actions that infringe on
constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
It is not clear
as yet, on what basis possession of devices such as radio stations
meant to receive broadcasting services can be deemed illegal as
a reading of section 38B of the Broadcasting
Services Act states that one is not prohibited from possession
of a receiver as long as it is in accordance with the terms and
conditions of a listener's licence as issued by the Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
The importance of a radio set cannot be over-emphasised as it is
a generally affordable gadget used for receiving information by
the public. The right to receive and impart information and ideas
is enshrined in Section 20 of the current constitution
as a vital component of citizens' right to freedom of expression.
This same right
is also enshrined in Article 9 of the African
Charter on Human and People's Rights of which Zimbabwe
is party to.
Access to information
is a fundamental part of freedom of expression which will assist
citizens in making informed decisions and choices during the referendum
and the forthcoming elections.
It is therefore
critical that the police in their efforts to maintain law and order,
should not unilaterally infringe the public's right to information,
especially as the country heads for the referendum and elections.
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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