Journalists Force Abortion of Econet Media Briefing

Harare, March 27, 2015 – Hordes of Zimbabwean journalists on Friday forced executives of a local bank to abort a media briefing after they protested against the raid and seizure of documents at The Source news agency.

Officials from Econet Wireless, the country’s leading mobile telephone service provider and Steward Bank in the company of the Sherriff and police on Thursday raided, searched and seized documents from computers used by journalists at The Source, an independent business and financial online news agency.

In conducting the raid, the officials said their actions were justified as they were executing a High Court order which they obtained from the High Court early this month and which was granted by Justice Joseph Musakwa.

The High Court order obtained by Econet and Steward Bank authorised them to search the premises and computer systems of the popular news agency to obtain any information belonging to them which they claimed was stolen from them. Econet and Steward Bank petitioned the High Court after The Source published two articles titled: “Steward Bank seeks land to settle 2.1 million Chiyangwa loan and “Debt distressed Zimbabwe moves to reschedule domestic debt”.

But the raid angered journalists who on Friday heckled Tawanda Nyambirai, the Steward Bank’s lawyer and Lance Mambondiani, the bank’s acting chief executive officer at the Meikles Hotel where they intended to issue a press statement on the whole saga.

The journalists demanded that Nyambirai, who attempted to read a press statement justifying the two companies’ actions should first of all apologise for violating journalists’ rights. The media practitioners also resisted attempts by the officials to conduct an opening prayer before proceedings of the media briefing could commence.

The journalists advised Nyambirai that they should have approached the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe to present their grievances rather than raid and confiscate data from journalists.

The two companies actions has angered most Zimbabwean journalists and media organisations among them the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists with the Media Institute of Southern Africa condemning it as a violation of media freedom and the right to the protection of media sources which is explicitly guaranteed in Section 61 of the Constitution.