New York, January 18, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern today that Voice of the People (VOP), an independent Zimbabwean news production company, remains inactive after police confiscated its equipment and files in a December raid. Authorities have continued to hold VOP material for more than a month.
VOP Director John Masuku appeared in court on Friday. He is accused of violating the Broadcasting Services Act, which prohibits the possession or use of radio transmission equipment without a license. Masuku could face up to two years in prison if found guilty. The state-owned newspaper The Herald said Masuku’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 30.
Police have also threatened to arrest VOP’s board of trustees, according to Arnold Tsunga, director of Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and a VOP trustee.
VOP staffers produce programs on a variety of community and political issues but do not broadcast directly within Zimbabwe. The programming is transmitted via shortwave from overseas, although the broadcasts were recently scrambled within Zimbabwe, according to local sources.
“We are deeply troubled by Zimbabwe’s blatant censorship of Voice of the People, an important news source in a country where independent broadcasters are unable to operate,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “We call on authorities to release VOP’s equipment immediately, to drop all criminal proceedings against John Masuku, and to cease their campaign of harassment against VOP staff members.”