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Local business news agency, The Source, has expressed surprise that Econet Wireless and Steward Bank together with their lawyers released a Press Statement commenting on matters pending before the court, in complete disregard of the recent remarks by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.

Econet raided The Source on Wednesday to retrieve what it said was stolen information. The company’s lawyer, Tawanda Nyambirai of Mtetwa amp Nyambirai legal practitioners on Friday failed to address a news conference after journalists walked out on him in protest of the company’s action to search and seize documents at the news agency.

“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,” said a statement signed by The Source Trust chairman, Cris Chinaka.

It said while Econet Wireless and Steward Bank allege in the Press Statement that confidential information “was stolen”, they did not show how The Source or its reporters were complicit in the alleged theft.

“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 instil the fear of the devil into the newsroom at The Source, and into the media industry,” he said.

The news agency castigated the move of resorting to seizing material from the publication as opposed to confronting the latter through the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.

“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,” it said.

Added The Source: “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.”

The Source dismissed as unfounded allegations to the effect that Econet chief executive, Douglas Mboweni communicated with the editor of The Source.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), together with the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), have started circulating a petition against the recent raid of The Source news agency.

The petition read in part: “We the undersigned Zimbabwean journalists and media practitioners, aware of our constitutional rights and professional journalistic ethics and privileges… We hereby bring it to your attention that your actions are unacceptable and an arrogant violation of Section 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which protects freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

“We submit and aise you Steward Bank and Econet Wireless, that in the case of perceived wrongs or breach of journalistic ethics by the media, this can be resolved civilly by approaching the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe for redress.”

Source : Zimbabwe Standard