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Permanent secretary for media admits to state monopoly over broadcast industry

(MISA/IFEX) - Permanent Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity George Charamba has conceded that the state has always had a controlling monopoly of radio services. He admitted to this in an interview with the "Herald" newspaper in which he sharply criticised the continued operation of Voice of America's (VOA) Studio 7 amid allegations by his office that there was a government to government agreement between the United States and Botswana.

In a story that appeared in the 4 December 2009 issue of the "Herald", titled "Botswana, US propaganda pact exposed", Charamba alleged that Botswana entered into a bilateral agreement with the United States to broadcast anti-government propaganda messages into Zimbabwe and that there was a recent upgrading of the transmitting equipment to scale up the pirate broadcasts.

Responding to a question about whether the setting up of such a radio station would assist in opening the airwaves, Charamba said the VOA "was trying to cloud the issue by not dealing with the real matter at hand." "This country has had a State broadcasting monopoly since day one of radio services," he observed.

Speaking on the subject, the permanent secretary said the government to government agreement between Gaborone and Washington was in violation of ITU (International Telecommunications Union) protocols, Zimbabwe's sovereignty and the Global Political Agreement (GPA), although no reasons were given to substantiate the existence of the alleged pact or violation of the ITU.

He went on question why a radio station such as this never broadcasted during the days of the colonial era and why they only started broadcasting with the advent of the land reform. Charamba further remarked that the alleged transmitter was done with the singular purpose of increasing the scale of "media terrorism against Zimbabwe."

Charamba's comments come after the inclusive government undertook to open up the airwaves by issuing licenses to new broadcasters and media players. Article 19 of the GPA clearly states that "government shall ensure the immediate processing by the appropriate authorities of all applications for re-registration and registration in terms of both the Broadcasting Services Act as well as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act." More than a year after the signing of the GPA, this undertaking remains a pipe dream.

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