August 22, 2008

Zimbabwe Court Acquits SAfrican Firm From Charges of Illegal Poll Coverage

Text of report by UK-based Zimbabwean news website on 22 August

[Report by Nozipho Maseko: "International satellite feed company acquitted"]

Zimbabwe - Harare -A South African company that provided satellite feeds in Harare for international news channels that covered the historic Zimbabwe general election has been acquitted by a Harare Court.

Harare Magistrate Archie Wochiunga acquitted South African company, Globecast Satellite which was facing charges of violating Zimbabwe's restrictive Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).

The company provided satellite feeds from Harare for international news channels such as BBC, CNN and Sky NEWS -which covered the election undercover because of a government ban over what government claims is hostile coverage.

Two technicians for the South African media company who were also arrested while setting up cameras and other equipment for an interview with Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, were also acquitted.

Magistrate Wochiunga acquitted the company after an application for discharge at the close of the state case by defence counsel Beatrice Mtetwa.

Globecast Satellite pleaded not guilty to charges of contravening Section 7 (1) as read with Section 7 (4) and 7 (5) of BSA which outlaws the provision of broadcasting services or operating a signal carrier without a licence.

Wochiunga agreed with Mtetwa that the evidence which had been led by the state was so manifestly unreliable to the extent that no reasonable court would rely on it.

Globecast's Zimbabwe operation was shut down on the eve of the historic March 29 poll.

Two technicians sent from South Africa to operate the truck were also arrested just after finishing uplinking a transmission in Harare with the Information minister.

The two technicians were later acquitted of charges of not being properly accredited to work on the elections.

Originally published by website, London, in English 22 Aug 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.