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Zimbabwe22 March 2005

UN system body asked to intervene in Zimbabwe’s jamming of radio broadcasts from London

Reporters Without Borders today said it was "outraged" by Zimbabwe’s jamming since 7 March of short-wave broadcasts by SW Radio Africa, a privately-owned radio station based in London which employs Zimbabwean journalists living in exile.

In a letter to the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the press freedom organization asked this UN system body "to seriously examine this situation, which constitutes a grave violation of Harare’s undertakings towards the United Nations."

The letter urged ITU secretary-general Yoshio Utsumi "to demand official and credible explanations from Zimbabwe, which is a member state of the ITU since 18 February 1981 and, as such, obliged to conform to the provisions of its constitution, conventions and administrative regulations."

Reporters Without Borders added: "Thanks to support from China, which exports its repressive expertise, Robert Mugabe’s government has yet again just proved itself to be one of the most active predators of press freedom. Although in the middle of an electoral campaign, Zimbabwe has not only flouted the Southern African Development Community’s democratic principles, it is now also displaying open contempt for its undertakings towards the ITU and the UN conventions it has signed."

The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), a Harare-based independent watchdog, said the jamming of SW Radio Africa’s broadcasts is being carried out from Thornhill airbase - located outside the southwestern town of Gweru, between Harare and Bulawayo - where the government has a transmission station.

According to the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), a US federal government entity, the equipment being used for the jamming comes from China, which has close trade links with Zimbabwe, especially in the telecommunications domain.

BBC Monitoring (a BBC offshoot that monitors news media throughout the world) said it established on 16 March that SW Radio Africa’s three daily broadcasts were being "deliberately jammed." The 1600 GMT broadcast on 11.845 kHz was drowned by a 1 kHz signal. The 1700 and 1800 GMT broadcasts were jammed by interference of a "rotary" kind.

ITU regulation 1.166 defines interference as: "The effect of unwanted energy due to one or a combination of emissions, radiations, or inductions upon reception in a radiocommunication system, manifested by any performance degradation, misinterpretation, or loss of information which could be extracted in the absence of such unwanted energy."

Article 1003 of the annex of the ITU constitution defines "harmful interference" as one that "obstructs or repeatedly interrupts a radiocommunication service."

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