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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 17:33 GMT
Texting to beat Zimbabwe censors
Someone texting on their mobile phone
A story needs to be condensed to 160 characters
A private radio station broadcasting to Zimbabwe from the UK says it using text messages to beat the country's censors.

Broadcasts from SW Radio Africa, started by a Zimbabwean journalist in London to avoid the media crackdown, have been jammed for nearly two years.

SW Radio Africa founder Gerry Jackson says the daily SMS headline service is proving popular with 100 requests a day from those wanting to join the service.

Strict media laws have been introduced in Zimbabwe in recent years.

Zimbabweans truly love their mobile phones and of course what we're banking on is the virus effect
Gerry Jackson

All broadcasters transmitting from Zimbabwean soil and the main newspapers are state-controlled and toe the government line.

Ms Jackson set up a radio station in Harare in 2000 but it was immediately closed down by the police.


So far about 2,000 people have signed up to SW Radio Africa's text scheme in the last two months.

The jamming has mainly affected the radio station's broadcasts to urban areas, where mobile phones are most popular.

"Zimbabweans truly love their mobile phones and of course what we're banking on is the virus effect," Ms Jackson told the Media Helping the Media website.

She said it had also forced journalists to be more concise as complex stories have to be condensed to 160 characters.

Over the past few years alternative ways of disseminating the news has to be found, Ms Jackson said.

The station's website offers podcasts and transcripts of interviews are circulated by email to those in Zimbabwe and the many people living in the diaspora.

Many Zimbabweans have sought to escape the country's deepening economic crisis.

It has the world's highest rates of annual inflation - at more than 1,000% and unemployment stands at more than 80%.

Critics say President Robert Mugabe has ruined what was one of Africa's most developed economies following the collapse of the commercial agriculture sector in 2000.

Mr Mugabe, 83, says he is the victim of a Western plot to bring him down because of opposition to his seizure of white-owned land.

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