Karabo FM, a community radio station broadcasting to an estimated audience of 73 000 listeners in the city of Sasolburg in the South African province of Free State, burned to the ground on the night of Saturday 7 September 2013, the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) reported on Tuesday.
“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the burning of Karabo FM,” MDDA CEO Lumko Mtimde said in a statement. “This incident has deprived the community of an essential information asset which kept the community informed and entertained at all times,” he added.
The cause of the fire is unclear at this stage, but many observers suspect that the station might have broadcast a programme that made certain people angry to the extent of coming to “finish off” the station.
Media freedom in South Africa has been on a shaky ground in the past two years, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) becoming increasingly frustrated with what it calls ‘irresponsible’ reporting by some sections of the media.
Some analysts believe this criticism by the highest people in power has galvanised many government supporters to become hostile against the independent media.
“The work of the station has been critical and will continue to be critical,” Mtimde said.
The MDDA said it pinned hopes on the police to investigate the incident and bring perpetrators to justice.
No casualties have been reported, the agency said, adding that its board and management have started to work towards the restoration of the station.
Image: Sowetan newspaper