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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Farm Radio Weekly

Zimbabwean FRW writer found not guilty of ‘illegal radio smuggling’

Zenzele Ndebele is a freelance writer for FRW and the production manager of Radio Dialogue, a community radio station in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. On March 1, 2013, police raided the station offices and confiscated 120 shortwave radios. We reported on the raid and Mr. Ndebele’s subsequent arrest last year: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2013/03/11/zimbabwean-farm-radio-weekly-freelance-writer-charged-with-%E2%80%98illegal-radio-smuggling%E2%80%99/

In March 2014, a Bulawayo court found Mr. Ndebele and Radio Dialogue not guilty of any misconduct and ordered the police to return the confiscated radios to Radio Dialogue.

Mr. Ndebele says police returned the radios, but not before altering them. On May 19, Mr. Ndebele tweeted: “It turns out the authorities opened most of the 120 shortwave radios they confiscated last year and [tampered with them].”

Mr. Ndebele posted a picture on Twitter of a radio that had been tampered with: https://twitter.com/zenzele/status/468285792327327744

He explains: “Most of the radios are no longer working. When the police took the radios, they were boxed and sealed. When we collected them, most of the seals were broken.” Only about 15 of the radios are still working. Mr. Ndebele says the station has no choice but to dump the remaining sets.

Zimbabwean police did not only target Radio Dialogue in its raids last year. The BBC reported that police went door-to-door, seizing radio sets from villagers. You can read the BBC report here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-21829815.

Since a coalition government came to power in Zimbabwe five years ago, many community and private radio stations have applied for broadcasting licenses. These applicants, including Radio Dialogue, are still waiting for their licences to be approved. ZBC is the state broadcaster and widely considered a government mouthpiece.

Radio Dialogue is trying to provide an alternative source of news. In April 2014, the station was fined $100 US for not having a radio licence.

Undeterred, Mr. Ndebele posted the following message to Facebook: “No amount of dirty tactics will scare us. One day, we will wake up in a free Zimbabwe where possessing a shortwave radio is not a crime.”

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