The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned a government attack on journalists working at a radio station in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Last week, armed state security agents raided and ransacked the offices of the privately-owned radio station Voice of the People (VOP) in Harare, seized equipment and arrested three female journalists. The three journalists, Maria Nyanyiwa, Nyasha Bosha and Kundai Mugwanda, were released on December 19.
One of the station’s two directors, John Masuku, was later arrested and remains in police custody.
“We are dismayed by this latest attack on Zimbabwean journalism and demand the immediate release of John Masaku,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Regional Office. "This crack down is part of President Mugabe’s attempt to crush all opposition and silence any voice that affirms democracy and freedom of speech in Zimbabwe.”
Mr. Masuku has been in police custody since December 19 and under Zimbabwean law should be brought before the court within 48 hours. This expired yesterday without his appearance in court. The police failed to provide an explanation.
In a country where the dominant state-owned broadcast media only reports information that pleases the government, radio stations like VOP and Radio Dialogue provide some of the few sources of independent views and news.
These alternative stations are forced to operate underground because they have been denied licenses. VOP, which has been legally registered as a Communication Trust since its creation in 2000, was not allowed to broadcast without a licence from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ).
VOP has been broadcasting from Madagascar since its Zimbabwe studios were destroyed in August 2002. Zimbabwe’s intelligence services have been blocking the VOP radio signal.
“Zimbabwe must end the practice of blocking the radio transmissions and allow journalists the freedom to work,” added Baglo. “We also call on the African Union and the United Nations to ensure that the constant intimidation of Zimbabwe journalists ends.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries