Weekend broadcasts will begin on Saturday and Sunday, August 18 and 19, at 7 p.m. Zimbabwe time (1700 UTC) on 909 medium wave from Botswana and shortwave frequencies 4930, 13755 and 15775 kiloHertz.
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe has been on the air since January 2003 and posted strong audience growth through 2005 and 2006 to establish an audience of more than 1 million listeners in the Southern African country. Jamming of Studio 7's medium-wave signal began in mid-2006 and the government has acknowledged that it is responsible.
The Studio 7 weekend programs are to comprise 20-minute segments in the indigenous Shona and Ndebele languages as well as English, which is widely spoken in Zimbabwe. As during the week, the Saturday-Sunday programs will pursue breaking or developing stories while presenting discussions on critical topics including the continuing political and economic crisis, efforts to mediate a solution to the crisis, intensifying shortages of food and other essential goods, and efforts to stem a major HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Studio 7 will add audience participation to the mix with callbacks to listeners who would like to express their views on news topics, especially in the run-up to the general and presidential elections to be held in March 2008 following local ballots in January.
Since its inception, Studio 7 has established itself in Zimbabwe as a balanced and reliable source for news and analysis of the evolving crisis which has pitted the government and ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and a broad array of reform-minded civil society organizations.
The Zimbabwe Project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and has been developed, managed and operated by the Voice of America. Studio 7 reports are prepared by a largely Zimbabwean staff in Washington and stringers in Zimbabwe.
Studio 7'sweb page, www.VOANews.com/english/africa/zimbabwe/, also offers news in English, Shona and Ndebele, and recently launched e-mail newsletters in all three languages.
Opposition leaders and civil society activists cite Studio 7 broadcasts as a major factor in the democratic reform process given the virtual exclusion of dissenting voices in the state media. Studio 7 provided extensive and balanced coverage of the 2005 general election - interviews with ruling ZANU-PF and opposition candidates in many constituencies were aired back-to-back - and delivered intense, high-impact reporting on the government's May-July 2005 campaign of forced evictions and home demolitions. Reporter Carole Gombakomba's telephone interviews with victims of the exercise received a 2006 commendation from the Association of International Broadcasting.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.
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