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Opposition party supporters storm community radio station

(MISA/IFEX) - On 2 January 2010, members of the opposition Patriotic Front (PF) party stormed the Mazabuka Community Radio Station (MCRS), located in the Southern Province of Zambia, and demanded that it immediately stop broadcasting a live phone-in programme called "LiveWire, Face the Media", sponsored by MISA-Zambia. The programme featured Opha Hamiyanze, who claimed to be the acting PF provincial chairperson.

MCRS station manager Bellon Chintomba told MISA-Zambia on 5 January that Mazabuka district PF leaders led the charge on the station and demanded that it stop broadcasting the programme in which Hamiyanze questioned the level of intra-party democracy in the PF, the leading opposition party in Zambia.

Chintomba said a known PF leader, who appeared to be directing the invasion of the station, mobilised a group of more than 10 of his fellow party members. The party members arrived at the station chanting anti-Hamiyanze slogans while he was still being interviewed. However, Chintomba said his staff members were undaunted and continued the programme until the end.

"Though the cadres were chanting, our station aired the programme in full, but we were forced to arrange for police officers to escort Hamiyanze from the station," Chintomba said.

He further said that, though police were investigating the matter, no arrests had been made.

MISA-Zambia chairperson Henry Kabwe condemned the behaviour of the PF supporters and urged the police to speed up their investigations and arrest the culprits, especially as this was not the first time that PF cadres had stormed a radio station in Zambia.

Police spokesperson Bonny Kapeso said the investigation had started late because the MCRS management waited until 5 January to file a complaint against the PF supporters. He said anyone found to be responsible for the actions against the station would likely face a charge of "conduct likely to cause a breach of peace" and would be liable to pay an "admission of guilt" fine.

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