ZANU PF ups anti-pirate radio stations rant

via ZANU PF ups anti-pirate radio stations rant | SW Radio Africa  by Mthulisi Mathuthu  December 17, 2013 

ZANU PF’s anti-democracy rhetoric continued at the party’s annual conference with the Central Committee urging the government to find ways of blocking foreign-based radio stations.

Already the government has been intermittently jamming SW Radio Africa broadcasts since 2005, using equipment and training from China.

In October deputy information Minister Supa Mandiwanzira told the senate that the government was in the process of licensing new radio stations to ‘get rid of pirate radio stations that have been spawning anti-Zimbabwe sentiments.’

A report tabled at the National People’s Conference, which ended Saturday, urged ‘vigilance’ against ‘pirate radio’ stations amongst other civil society players.

According to the Standard newspaper the report named SW Radio Africa, Studio 7 and the Voice of the People as ‘pirate’ radio stations sponsored by the West ‘in order to destabilize the government.’ Both Britain and the US as well as ‘white’ Commonwealth countries were accused of continuing to harbor a regime change agenda.

The report accused the private radio stations of ‘spewing anti-ZANU PF propaganda’ to the effect of ‘distorting people’s national pride’. The Central Committee also claimed that this alleged propaganda diminishes patriotism and results in self-doubt at both personal and national levels. The report called on the government and party members to be alive to what it referred to as ‘the psychological war fare of instilling fear, uncertainty, disunity and despondency.’

The call to block the foreign-based radio stations come a few weeks after ZANU PF dispatched a media delegation to China in what the party said was an exchange programme. But the move was largely seen as part of the ZANU PF government’s strategy to entrench its hold on the public mind.

According to the Standard sources at the conference. which was held in Chinhoyi, confirmed that the team was taught how to ‘intercept’ broadcasts by the foreign based stations, amongst other things.

China has one of the poorest records of media freedom in the world. The Chinese authorities censor all forms of communication to maintain power. According to Freedom House, a democracy advocacy and research organization, China’s media environment remains one of the most restrictive in the world.

The ZANU PF government is increasingly seen to be intent on clearing the space for pro-state players to complete the agenda of ensuring the media landscape is tilted its favor. Only last week SW Radio Africa heard that transport minister Obert Mpofu is behind the Zimbabwe Mail newspaper whose editor said the paper will ‘promote and ‘advance the country.’ This followed Mandiwanzira’s warning that media houses that continued to criticize President Mugabe and ZANU PF would ‘soon be out of business.’

The Central Committee report also commended what it said were ‘strides’ made towards ‘depolarising the media’ as that would ‘inculcate a sense of unity’.

This follows information minister Jonathan Moyo’s recent tour of media houses with a charm offensive, urging cordial relations.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa on Tuesday the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, Rashweat Mukundu, said there is need for civil society players to confront ZANU PF and urge them to stick to their ‘reformist promises’ instead of threatening radio stations. He added that while the threats were not new they give a ‘signal to the security services’ that it is alright for them to arrest journalists and to infringe on a citizens’ right to freedom of information and expression.