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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Zimbabwean MP ejected from Parliament after row over jamming

From Media Network Weblog:
Trudy Stevenson, the Member of Parliament for Harare North, was ejected from Parliament yesterday for attempting to defend the freedom of the airwaves in Zimbabwe after she heckled a deputy minister in the 150-member House on the issue. Stevenson was responding to an answer given by information deputy minister, Bright Matonga, on why the Zimbabwe government is jamming independent radio stations such as SW Radio Africa, Studio 7 and Radio Voice of the People.

Matonga had been asked to clarify the government’s position on independent radio stations and why the government was using ruthless means to ensure listeners were deprived of news. The question was not on the order paper. Matonga gloated he was glad that the opposition MDC had noted his government had the power to jam broadcasts of “propaganda” against the State from outside the country and confirmed they indeed were jamming those broadcasts. He said he was also pleased that listeners, mainly those in the rural areas that do not even receive the local FM stations were no longer receiving the independent radio station broadcasts as their frequencies were being disturbed by government agents.

A desk within the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has been set up to deal specifically with the jamming of the three radio stations’ frequencies. Matonga told Parliament the Zimbabwe government was right to block the radio stations from reaching people in Zimbabwe, adding the UK did not receive broadcasts from foreign countries.

“We cannot allow foreigners to invade our airwaves without our authority. We will continue to do it. We need to protect our sovereignty. If you go to England you will not receive any foreign radio station,” said Matonga. At this, Stevenson heckled Matonga saying loudly that his statement was incorrect. To the contrary, the UK received thousands of foreign stations broadcasting into the country everyday.

Many more heckles were exchanged across the floor, forcing acting Speaker, Kumbirai Kangai, to order Stevenson out of the chamber. (Source: Association of Zimbabwe Journalists)

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