Stop fascist crackdowns

HARARE - In typical repressive style, police yesterday banned the distribution of free portable radios which were meant for rural communities.

At the same time, the police broke windows and doors of Non-Governmental Organisations in a dastardly NGO crackdown which should be condemned.

While we hold no brief for NGOs, we are shocked by the high-handedness and police’s explanation that the crackdown was meant to stamp out hate speech spewed through shortwave radio stations.

But the police are looking for a case far away because if spewing propaganda is such a serious offence, then they should start by raiding the public broadcaster which is famous for peddling hate speech.

 Banning shortwave radios in a bid to bar Zimbabweans from accessing alternative voices is a move synonymous with autocratic regimes.

 In any case, the exiled radio stations are beaming from London, Washington, Cape Town because the regime here does not want to open up the airwaves to new independent players.

Instead of raiding NGOs, we should be pushing for the licensing of more independent radio stations.

The recent raids on civil society are a wake-up call to Principals in the unity government who have been relentlessly preaching non-violence and peace.  The police action must be put on scrutiny; otherwise they risk the credibility of the forthcoming referendum and election.

Instead of embracing democracy which also encapsulates media pluralism, the police are winding the clock backwards to the era when dissenting voices were not tolerated.

It is an open secret that people prefer listening to the extra-terrestrial radio stations such as Studio 7, SW Radio and Radio VOP than the State radio stations because of their overt bias.

Such fascist practices have no place in a modern society and President Robert Mugabe should swiftly move and rein-in these malcontents.

 We don’t expect this Gestapo-style crackdown on the eve of a crucial election.

 It really boggles the mind that officers from the police force who claim to be well-trained show such heavy handedness at a time when calls for peace from Mugabe are gaining acceptance around the country.

This onslaught on shortwave radios is not targeted on NGOs but Zimbabweans across the country that have a right to listen to Studio 7, ZBC or anything they so wish. - Staff Writer

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