'Radio VOP operations legal'

HARARE - Privately-owned radio station Voice of the People (VOP) broadcasting into Zimbabwe was doing so legally according to Dutch law, the Netherlands envoy said yesterday.

Gera Snelle, Netherlands Ambassador to Zimbabwe, told journalists yesterday after paying a courtesy call on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo, who has said VOP was not allowed to broadcast into the southern African country without a licence from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) — that as long as the radio station was legal under Dutch law, there should not be a problem.

VOP’s programmes in Shona and Ndebele, are broadcast on the short wave from 7 to 8 pm. from a transmitter in Madagascar operated by the Dutch public radio station, Radio Netherlands.

“As long as they abide by the standards set by Dutch law with regard to media, which means that they have to refrain from inciting hatred and calling for violence, when they abide by those laws, they can get a broadcasting permit and they are free to operate,” Sneller said.

She said if the stations chose to broadcast to Germany, Luxemburg or Zimbabwe, they were doing so legally according to Dutch laws.

She noted that freedom of expression and the media were extremely important to the Netherlands.

Moyo said it was surprising that during the liberation struggle the Netherlands supported Zimbabwe but did not offer any assistance in setting up a radio station to support the liberation fighters’ cause against colonial domination.

“However, now that the country is independent and is enjoying being a sovereign nation, they assist radio stations that according to Zimbabwean law are pirate and all about regime change propaganda,” Moyo said.

VOP has had fierce run-ins with the Harare administration over the past decade, with its equipment seized and its journalists arrested.

It was ordered to stop broadcasting from Zimbabwe after its studio in Milton Park, Harare, was destroyed in a mysterious August 2002  blast.

With the help of Chinese technicians, the Zimbabwean intelligence services has also jammed VOP’s broadcasts, only stopping the jam after VOP switched to a different frequency.

The radio station has also been denied a commercial radio licence by BAZ when ZiFM and Star FM were licensed.


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