afrol News, 29 August - Early today, a bomb exploded at the offices of the 'Voice of The People', a private radio station in Harare which has often been criticised by the government. The station was badly damaged but no one was injured. The incident is seen as a further attack on Zimbabwe's remaining free media.
A guard was the only person at the radio station when the attack took place in the early hours of today. He said he had been approached by three men, one of them armed. Two of them restrained him while the third threw the explosive device into the building. The three then ran off. The blast destroyed the radio station's roof and its equipment.
The 'Voice of The People' employs local journalists who prepare radio programmes in several local languages that are sent by computer to the Netherlands. From there they are broadcast back to Zimbabwe in order not to be subject to Zimbabwe's repressive news media laws.
The government had often accused the station of by-passing the law and of spreading propaganda hostile to the government and likely to foment political divisions. On 4 July, police had searched the station, seizing files and cassettes.
The bomb attack against the radio station is not the first in Zimbabwe. The premises housing the printing press of the country's leading independent newspaper, the 'Daily News' in Southerton, a suburb of Harare, was bombed on the night of 27-28 January 2001.
No one was injured but the printing press was badly damaged, making it very difficult to bring out the daily. No one every claimed responsibility for the bombing and the investigation produced no results.
The French media watchdog Reporters sans frontières (RSF) today protested against the bombing of the Harare radio station. "We urge you to conduct a thorough investigation into this explosion and to inform us of its progress", RSF Secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Zimbabwe's Interior Minister Kembo Mohadi.
- The authorities must give a clear signal that such actions will not go unpunished, the letter said. It further noted that radio is especially important as it was the media used by most Zimbabweans to keep up with the news.
According to RSF's 2002 annual report, the situation of the press in Zimbabwe is among the worst in the world. "In 2001 Zimbabwe became one of the most repressive countries on the African continent as far as press freedom is concerned. Twenty local journalists were arrested and three correspondents of the foreign press were expelled from the country."