Police defied Supreme Court in raid on radio station

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New York, October 6, 2000 — The High Court of Zimbabwe today ordered the return of equipment confiscated on Thursday from Capital Radio, a newly launched independent FM station. It also ordered the country’s Commissioner of Police to show why he should not be jailed for contempt of court.

Thursday’s raid, in which armed police officers stormed the studios of Capital Radio at Harare’s Monomotapa Crowne Plaza and confiscated broadcasting equipment, violated another High Court ruling issued earlier in the day barring the police from seizing the equipment.

“We urge the authorities in Zimbabwe to respect the rulings of its own courts and return Capital Radio’s equipment immediately,” said CPJ’s deputy director Joel Simon. “As long as the government defies the court’s rulings, journalists in Zimbabwe will continue to work without the protection of the law and be subject to the whims of President Mugabe.”

In an October 2 letter CPJ had called on President Robert Mugabe to respect a September 22 Supreme Court ruling which recognized Capital Radio’s right to broadcast in Zimbabwe. The court ruled that state’s broadcast monopoly violated article 20 of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

Instead of complying with the Supreme Court ruling, the government began a series of maneuvers to subvert it.

Immediately after the ruling, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said he would draft new legislation to govern private broadcasters and that Capital Radio would not be permitted to begin any broadcasts.

On Wednesday, Mugabe signed the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Broadcasting) Regulations 2000, giving the Minister of State for Information and Publicity the power to issue and deny licenses. The law states that “anyone broadcasting or running a transmitter without a license can be fined up to Z$5 million (approximately US$94,000), or jailed for up to two years.” Among other provisions, it requires license holders to “give a total of one hour of the week to the government to explain its policies.”

On Thursday, after the raid on Capital Radio, Moyo and Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo held a press conference in which they displayed the confiscated equipment. Moyo claimed that enactment of the presidential powers regulations meant that Capital Radio’s continued broadcasts were illegal, giving the state the right to intervene despite the Supreme Court ruling in favor of private broadcasting and the High Court’s injunctions against the raid.

Meanwhile, two directors of Capital Radio — Gerry Jackson and Mike Auret, Jr. — are said to be in hiding after police raided their homes.