Friday, December 27, 2013

United States Beaming Hostile Broadcasts Into Zimbabwe

US hypocrisy on access to information shameful

December 27, 2013 Opinion & Analysis
Benny Tsododo
Zimbabwe Herald

Recent utterances in Bulawayo by United States ambassador to Botswana Michelle Gavin defending her country’s move to set up transmitters in Botswana that power pirate radio stations beaming hate messages into Zimbabwe such as Voice of America (VOA)’s Studio 7 cannot go unchallenged.

Gavin obdurately declared that the establishment of the transmitters was in line with the US and Botswana’s policy to ensure people have unrestricted access to information.

Gavin said, “The United States of America and Botswana share respect for freedom of expression, unfettered access to information, so we are working with the government of Botswana in trying to further that principle on a global scale.”

No one can begrudge the two countries for seeking to promote a policy that espouses their ideological convictions, but what is unsettling is their brazen action of supporting intrusive radio stations that deliberately seek to influence the course of political affairs in Zimbabwe. When such a situation obtains, it glaringly exposes a wanton breach of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Inasmuch as countries are entitled to promote their policies on the international arena, the promotion of such policies should not be done in a way that undermines another country’s territorial integrity.

The principle of territorial integrity is sacrosanct and is fully enshrined in Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Seeking to directly or indirectly influence political activities in another country amounts to a blatant breach of the inviolable principle of territorial integrity.

As such, the setting up of transmitters to relay regime change propaganda into Zimbabwe is an act of aggression that should be condemned. Gavin should know that the Americans and the Tswana have no jurisdiction to regulate political discourse in Zimbabwe.

It is also laughable that US ambassador Gavin would like to pass her country off as promoting “unfettered access to information on a global scale”. What crass hypocrisy!

It is indubitable that the US does not hold any moral latitude to claim clout for promoting global access to information.

People like Gavin cannot pull wool over our eyes as the US and its European acolytes are conspicuously at the forefront of stifling access to information by hounding and persecuting global exponents of access to information such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and the British Guardian newspaper.

If the US is truly a champion of “unfettered access to information” and “freedom of expression” as claimed by Gavin, then it should be idolising and honouring Manning, Assange and Snowden for their inimitable and indomitable contribution to global access to information.

But instead, the US in cahoots with its European subalterns, has been viciously at the forefront of harassing, denigrating and persecuting the global icons of access to information.

Julian Assange is being hounded for publishing US military and diplomatic documents with the assistance of some audacious global media partners in 2010.

Assange is the editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, which publishes secret information, news leaks and classified information from anonymous news sources and whistle-blowers.

The United States Department of Justice vengefully launched a criminal investigation related to the laudable dissemination of information by WikiLeaks.

US prosecutors are reportedly considering charges against Assange under several laws. In addition, on December 14, 2010, the US Department of Justice summoned Twitter to release information relating to Assange’s account.

On their part, the Europeans have subjected Assange to a European arrest warrant since November 2010, in a purported response to a Swedish police request.

Senior US political figures and officials have come out guns blazing and saliva-spitting, castigating Assange for promoting global access to information. US Vice President Joe Biden has labelled Assange “a high-tech terrorist”.

Former US House Speaker, Newt Gingrinch said: “Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism. He should be treated as an enemy combatant”. On November 30, 2010, former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin called for Assange to be pursued “with the same urgency we pursue Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders”.

The vile and ferocity with which Assange is being pursued is clearly designed to stifle free access to information and silence journalists promoting free speech on matters concerning powerful states.

As a result, Assange is understandably on the run, fearing the vicious and retributive hand of the US, which is seeking to silence him for promoting access to information.

He is now holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been given asylum.

The same fate befell another global icon of freedom of expression and access to information, Edward Snowden.

True to promotion of access to information, Snowden released to the press, documents he attained during his time working as a contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The documents contained information chronicling despicable and unethical mass surveillance techniques applied by the British intelligence GCHQ and NSA.

Snowden revealed how the two western intelligence arms arbitrarily harvested, stored and analysed data from millions of worldwide phone calls, emails and search-engine queries.

The revelations divulged matters of genuine public interest and of utmost concern to states across the globe.

However, such material was deemed subversive by the US and its western acolytes, who are now on an unrelenting crusade to capture Snowden.

The US wants to charge him with espionage. Fortunately, Snowden was on August 1 2013 granted temporary asylum in Russia.
Likewise, the Guardian newspaper of Britain, which published stories from the Snowden files, was grilled by the British Parliament for daring to promote access to information.

Its editor, Alan Rusbridger, disclosed that his paper had come under concerted pressure designed to stop it from publishing stories from the Snowden files.

Rusbridger aptly summed up the ferocious pressure to stifle access to information by saying, “They include prior restraint, they include a senior Whitehall official coming to see me to say: ‘There has been enough debate now’. They include asking for the destruction for our disks. They include MPs calling for the police to prosecute the editor”.

Similar efforts to stifle access to information and free speech were unleashed against Zimbabwean journalists who were slapped with illegal sanctions by the US and its western sidekicks.

Several Zimbabwean public media practitioners were slapped with the illegal embargoes for daring to disseminate information that projects the true state of affairs in Zimbabwe at a time the Western imperial juggernaut wanted to portray Zimbabwe as a lawless pariah state.

This is despite the indisputable fact that Zimbabwe is at the forefront of promoting access to information and freedom of expression. The country has for long allowed a potpourri of media establishments to flourish without any hindrance.

The country has witnessed the phenomenal growth of private media players in the past decade. These players include NewsDay, Southern Eye, Zimbabwe Mail, Daily News, ZiFM, Star FM and the Patriot.

The Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services has adopted an all-inclusive approach seeking to bring together media practitioners and promote a congenial working environment.

To show its commitment to access to information, Government recently set up a 22-member inquiry team to probe the information and media industry with a view to promote information dissemination in the country.

Interestingly, the inquiry team is chaired by a Government critic and veteran journalist, Geoff Nyarota and has equal representatives from both the public and private media.

Additionally, despite grappling with technological challenges spawned by western imposed sanctions, Government has shown unbending commitment to opening up the airwaves.

Already, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has called for applications for metro radio station licences to be established across the country.

In this regard, claims by the regime change apparatchiks that the media environment in Zimbabwe is not conducive for free access to information are rather misplaced and unfair.

Worse still, it is unpalatable that such accusations are made by a country such as the US that is manifestly at the forefront of stifling global access to information.

Benny Tsododo writes in his personal capacity. Feedback on

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