Home » General » Journalists Hector Econet ‘Bullies’ Over Raid

A PRESS conference called Friday by the Econet Wireless-owned Steward Bank degenerated into chaos as journalists demanded that bank officials apologise for Thursday’s raid on Harare based news agency The Source.

The raid followed a High Court order last week granting Econet Wireless access to communications relating to the bank.

The Source, which had published reports about the bank’s lending to the government a businessman Philip Chiyangwa, appealed the court order at the Constitutional Court.

Information minister Jonathan Moyo condemned the raid on the news agency.

“I am outraged by what we hear happened, especially allegations that Econet officials were abusing the cover of the Sheriff to run riot at the Source, ransacking computers and everything they could lay their hands on,” said Moyo.

A press conference Econet called Friday was aborted after journalists shouted officials down.

Steward Bank presser disrupted

Chris Mhike, a lawyer for the Source, said Friday he was waiting for a Constitutional Court ruling on the appeal.

Econet officials read e-mail correspondence and paperwork in the Source’s office, he said.

“This was a violation of freedom of the press which is enshrined in our constitution,” Mhike said. “It’s a sad day for our media.”

Press Statement by The Source News Agency

27 March 2015

The Press Release from Steward Bank regarding the Raid on The Source News Agency, dated 27th March 2015 and apparently authored by Mtetwa amp Nyambirai Legal Practitioners has been placed in the public domain

We are surprised that Econet Wireless and Steward Bank through Mtetwa amp Nyambirai Legal Practitioner have taken the public route of a Press Release when the issues they raise in the Release are presently pending before courts of law in the form of incomplete court cases.

Without going into the details of the pending and pertinent court cases but to avoid the perpetuation of numerous inaccuracies, we wish to set the record straight, only by directly, factually, and specifically responding to the issues raised in the Press Release. Our legal representatives will attend to the legal aspects of the case.

While Econet Wireless and Steward Bank allege in the Press Statement that confidential information “was stolen,” they do not deign to show how The Source or its reporters are complicit in this alleged theft.

While Econet Wireless and Steward Bank allege that certain “responsible journalists” afforded them the right of reply and opted not to publish, these companies, whose statement clearly shows they presume to pontificate about the intricacies of good journalism, fail to appreciate the basic principle of editorial independence. Further, pliant journalism has, throughout history, often been confused with responsible journalism by the privileged and powerful who, oftentimes, might have something to hide. The fact that some news outlets opted not to run a story has absolutely no bearing on The Source’s editorial decisions.

Comment was definitely sought from both Econet Wireless and Steward Bank, as well as from other parties linked to the relevant stories. This fact is evident in the stories in question, one which carries a response issued by Econet and another in which the opportunity to comment was demonstrably given to the firms, who spurned it. This is also clearly backed up by information that has been seized by Econet Wireless and Steward Bank, and in relevant records that are in the possession of The Source.

The Source respects the rights of all citizens, particularly the right to privacy and banker-client confidentiality. As a duly licenced media house and a member of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, The Source is bound by, and subscribes to, the principles of responsible journalism and media accountability. In that vein therefore, aggrieved parties are encouraged to engage self-regulatory mechanisms to resolve disputes. These have proven to be sensitive not only to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media, but to the concept of privacy and the dignity of the individual as well. Without seeking these available remedies it is hard not to view the draconian actions of Econet Wireless and Steward Bank as a clear attempt to intimidate and cow the media through measures like intrusion into correspondence between journalists and their sources, or between journalists and their lawyers.

In the context of the widespread closure of banks in Zimbabwe, mainly due to non-performing loans, a situation that has resulted in permanent prejudice to thousands of depositors it is difficult to understand why Mtetwa amp Nyambirai would convey the message that stories about toxic bank loans are not a public interest issue.

While Econet Wireless and Steward Bank decry the undermining of “the very foundations of our banking system,” they fail to admit that what has essentially undermined the banking system in Zimbabwe in the past decade, is the high incidence of imprudent and unethical business practices by bankers, which practices have been kept largely unreported by the dark cloak of banker-client confidentiality.

The allegation that Mr. Douglas Mboweni and Econet Wireless communicated with the Editor of The Source is categorically denied. No such communication or meeting took place and there is no record of any Econet request being made to The Source. We challenge Econet Wireless and Steward Bank to provide proof of this before peddling this fictitious account.

The Source respects our Courts of Law, and it looks up to the same judicial authorities for protection when journalistic rights are threatened, hence the filing of an Urgent Chamber Application at the High Court of Zimbabwe for the referral of constitutional questions to the Constitutional Court.

The Source had hoped for restraint on the part of Econet Wireless and Steward Bank in respect of their search and seizure action, at least up to the time of the delivery of a ruling in the Urgent Chamber Application.

While the Court Order was executed by Econet Wireless and Steward Bank with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Sheriff, that does not detract from the fact that this unprecedented search and seizure operation has induced a sense of shock among journalists at The Source and at other media houses.

Econet Wireless and Steward Bank go to town in their Statement about how Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media should be applied. However, neither these companies nor their legal representatives can authoritatively make a determination on the accuracy of their views, with finality. That is why The Source has requested for the referral of these kinds of constitutional questions to the Constitutional Court.

What must be condemned by all progressive Zimbabweans, are the actions of powerful institutions and individuals who seek Court Orders for the revelation of journalistic sources, in clear violation of enshrined fundamental media rights.

Finally, The Source takes note that Steward Bank claims to know who stole from it, declaring “we are on their trail.” If Econet Wireless and Steward Bank “know who the thieves are,” as they claim, surely they should have instituted criminal proceedings, not to instill the fear of the devil into the newsroom at The Source, and into the media industry.

Issued for and on behalf of Source-Net (Pvt) Ltd by Cris Chinaka, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Source Trust.

Source : New Zimbabwe