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Anti-graft officers raid radio station, seize materials, intimidate staff

(MISA/IFEX) - On 30 March 2007, officers from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) searched the office of Radio Mano, a community radio station in Zambia's Northern Province in Kasama.

Station Manager David Chanda said the ACC officers produced a search warrant, which did not state exactly what they were looking for. He said they described the search as a "classified investigation".

Chanda said that the ACC officers confined the Radio Mano staff to one room and told them not to leave the premises until the officers were through with the search, which lasted four hours.

The station did not go off air, but staff did not report for work the next day for fear of being confined again by the ACC, said Chanda. However, the workers have since returned and normal operations of the station have continued.

Chanda said the officers took the radio station's chequebook, some documents and files, some of which did not belong to the station. He added that the ACC also took his personal diary from his office.

When asked whether he had any suspicion on what or who the ACC were investigating, Chanda said: "They could be investigating an individual on corruption or the station as a whole. As for me, they have not approached me to say they are investigating me for such and such a case."

But in a press statement sent to MISA Zambia, ACC Public Relations Manager Timothy Moono confirmed that the ACC had conducted a search at the radio station as part of an investigation into a complaint against a senior staff member.

Moono refuted claims that Radio Mano staff were confined to one room during the search and that the radio station was shut down. He said these reports came as a surprise to the ACC because on the same day, 30 March 2007 at 6.00 p.m. (local time), the radio station began broadcasting a series of news flashes in which they informed listeners regarding the search by ACC.

Moono said the ACC conducted the search following a complaint concerning a senior staff member. The search was conducted from about 10:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the presence of senior management staff.

Moono also said that the search was not extended to the studio and the production room, but was confined to the offices of the accountants, executive director and the programmes manager, where several items relevant to the investigations were seized and taken to ACC offices in Kasama.

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