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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Zimbabwe radio 'free for all'
Daily News office after boming
Independent newspapers have been the targets of violence
By Joseph Winter in Harare

Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has declared that a private radio station can start operating immediately.

This breaks the current monopoly by the state broadcaster, which is widely seen as being a government mouthpiece.

The minister of information accepted that the legal monopoly was unconstitutional but wanted time to pass new regulations controlling private radio and television stations.

This decision is a major breakthrough for Zimbabwe's private media and for the political opposition.

State monopoly

The state broadcasting monopoly gives the ruling Zanu-PF party a huge advantage in rural areas where privately owned newspapers are not available, and in any case, most people cannot afford to buy them.

President Mugabe
Mr Mugabe's government is unwilling to relinquish its monopoly
They rely for their information on state radio, which never criticises the government and rarely mentions the opposition.

In recent parliamentary elections Zanu PF won all of its seats in rural areas.

Free for all

However, lawyers for Capital Radio advised it to start broadcasting as soon as possible before new regulations were passed.

The information minister wanted time to draft such regulations, but the Supreme Court said that was not its business.

As the state monopoly has only just been struck down, there is currently no legal requirement to have a license to broadcast and, in the words of the chief justice, there is a free for all.

Gerry Jackson, one of the directors of Capital Radio, told the BBC that it would start operating in three or four weeks time.

The information minister recently stated that those who were fronts for foreign interests would not be allowed to run radio or television stations in Zimbabwe.

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