Home » General » Journos Walk Out As Econet Won’t Apologise

INTERNATIONAL publisher Trevor Ncube tweeted Friday to say it was “time to stand up to corporate bullies” after Econet was forced to abandon a media briefing as journalists walked out demanding an apology over the raiding of the independent news agency, The Source.

Ncube, who publishes the Zimbabwe Independent, NewsDay, Southern Eye and the Mail ampuardian said he was “proud” of the Zimbabwean journalists because of their action.

Econet, together with the police and the Steward Bank, raided the news agency’s offices on Thursday in search of documents relating to dealings between the company and the Zanu PF government after being granted the permission to do so by the High Court.

The raid led to widespread condemnation of the telecommunications giant with the information minister Jonathan Moyo tweeting to say he thought the raid was about “some big person trying to hide stink”.

So high have been the emotions around the unprecedented incident that lawyer, Tawanda Nyambirai, in the company of Steward Bank chief executive officer Lance Mambondiani, were heckled and shouted down by angry journalists.

An official from the Steward bank tried to offer a prayer as is the tradition at Econet before all hell broke loose.

“There is not going to be a prayer because you did not offer a prayer when you raided The Source just get into the gist of your statement,” said one journalist.

Media Institute of Southern African (Misa) Chairperson Kumbirai Mafunda chipped in.

“Before you start raiding organisations you must pray,” he said.

Nyambirai then read the statement claiming Econet and Steward Bank had been forced to go to court after “some private documents were stolen”.

He said: “During the course of last year we lost private and confidential information stolen from us. The documents landed in the hands of some journalists who gave us the right of reply at the time.

“The information related to banker-client relationships.

“The banker-client relationship is the very pillar on which banking is founded even regulatory authorities when they require such information they do not just violate the rights of people. They follow laid down procedures we have regulations that require in certain circumstances the disclosure of such information including money laundering..,” said Nyambirai before he was talked down.

But he went on.

“I am talking to journalists who understand that the freedom of expression is not absolute and does not only entail a situation… we are pursuing information that was stolen and we have a court order. We reported the matter to the police,” he said.

Asked to produce the case number Nyambirai failed.

Mafunda chipped in once more: “We thought you were coming here to apologise for your immoral and criminal behavior. You are the least qualified to talk about freedom of expression.

“We have the Voluntary Media Council and if you had a problem with the stories then you could have followed that course of action not prying into people’s space that you very well know is a violation of their rights”.

The conference room then turned into a theatre as journalists burst into song, singing: “povo yaramba zvemadhisinyongoro” (we are fed up with this nonsense).

A telecommunications expert Chris Musodza said it was now going to be difficult for Zimbabweans to trust Econet given its control of personal information belonging to millions of citizens.

“Considering thisdevelopment it is worrisome that Econet handles large amounts of personal information for millions of citizens.

“Econet is a licensed custodian of public data in Zimbabwe, the largest for that matter, short message services, ISP data and emails. Now why should Zimbabweans trust them with such information if they go to the extent of raiding people’s computers?” Musodza said.

But Nyambirai still refused to apologise.

“Apologise for what? For information that was stolen? No, we also have rights and those rights are protected by the Constitution and confirmed through the court order. Section 61 that talks about protection of sources, excludes the unwarranted malicious violation of the rights to privacy,” said Nyambirai.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary general, Foster Dongozi, said the media fraternity was appalled by the behaviour of Econet.

“Journalists are protesting and showing their outrage at the behaviour of Econet. They have rejected this nonsense. Journalists said they will not listen to their statement. What Econet did only happens in dictatorships and we are shocked at such behaviour. It is an assault on media freedom and shame on Econet,” Dongozi said.

Early this week, Steward Bank and Econet secured a court order to search and seize information at The Source relating to a story in which the agency published stories claiming that government had borrowed $30 million from the telecommunications firm.

Source : New Zimbabwe