Zimpapers has suspended the station manager of its talk radio station, CapiTalk FM, for airing a once-off programme called ‘Ending Torture and Impunity in Zimbabwe' on June 25.
Nyaradzo Makombe-Hazangwi is the second manager to fall foul of censors at the state-controlled broadcaster after Napoleon Nyanhi was sacked in August 2018 along with star presenter Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa over a live phone-in programme in the wake of a street massacre by soldiers in post-election protests in Harare.
Makombe-Hazangwi was sent home this week in the fallout over the programme sponsored by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Panellists condemned the rising incidence of abductions and torture in Zimbabwe, while demanding that the country ratifies the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Zimpapers CEO Pikirayi Deketeke told ZimLive that the programme lacked balance.
"The radio division has started a process to ascertain what happened during the airing of a programme on human rights where allegations were being made without the other side being given an opportunity to defend themselves," Deketeke said.
"Good journalism dictates that we strive for balance and our platforms have been doing this very well including some of the hottest political debates on ZTN or Star FM current affairs shows."
Too hot to handle … An advance advertisement of the CapiTalk programme by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Sponsored programmes are a new cash cow for Zimbabwean radio stations, but they present a challenge for state media censors.
The panellists on the programme included torture survivors Jestina Mukoko and Wellington Nkawu as well as ZimRights director Dzikamai Bere and Frances Lovemore, director of the Counselling Services Unit.
CapiTalk FM's broadcast signal is limited to Harare and surrounding areas.
The programme came in the wake of the May 13 abduction and torture of three MDC youth activists including the Harare West MP, Joana Mamombe. The women were taken from a police station at night and driven out of Harare with sacks thrown over their heads.
They were thrown in a pit and tortured over two days, during which they say they were sexually assaulted and forced to consume each other's excrement. They were thrown off a moving vehicle in Bindura on May 15.
The government accuses the women of faking their abduction and they have been arrested and charged with communicating or publishing false statements prejudicial to the State.
United Nations human rights experts last month urged Zimbabwean authorities to "urgently prosecute and punish the perpetrators of this outrageous crime".
Human rights groups say over 60 people have been abducted, usually from their homes at night, and tortured before being dumped as President Emmerson Mnangagwa's regime resorts to crude tactics to quell growing dissent over his mishandling of the economy and corruption.