Zimbabwean journalists yesterday delivered strongly-worded petitions to Econet Wireless and its subsidiary Steward Bank, protesting the two’s recent raid on The Source news agency, which has been widely condemned for violating media freedom.
Econet Wireless information technology experts swooped on the news agency’s offices in Harare on March 26 accompanied by the deputy sheriff, their lawyer and police with a mission to search and seize documents believed to have been used in two stories published online by the business news agency.
Enraged journalists then walked out of a press conference called by Steward Bank legal representative and former Econet chairman Tawanda Nyambirai a few days later after he refused to apologise for the raid.
Subsequently, more than 130 journalists from various media houses and organisations around the country signed the two petitions, which were then handed to senior officials of Econet Wireless and Steward Bank by the leadership of Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (Zuj) and Media Institute of Southern Africa in Harare yesterday.
The journalists expressed shock at the “abhorrent and unconstitutional raid of the offices of The Source news agency by Steward Bank and Econet Wireless” and decried the two’s failure to recognise the sanctity of the protection and confidentiality of news sources.
“We… refer you Steward Bank and Econet Wireless, to Section 61 (2) of the Constitution which unequivocally guarantees protection of news sources by stating that: every person is entitled to freedom of the media, which freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information,” reads part of the petition.
“Thus, guided and protected by our constitutionally guaranteed professional rights, we therefore strongly condemn your unconstitutional actions as reprehensible and repugnant in a democratic society.”
The journalists also advised the two entities to desist from such heavy-handed and arrogant violations of constitutionally enshrined media freedoms and instead seek redress by approaching the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.
Zuj Secretary-General Foster Dongozi said they would wait for a response from Steward Bank and Econet Wireless before taking further action against them.