By Jessica Mundawarara|
Journalists on Friday sang and chanted, disrupting a press conference called by Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet to explain its seizure of equipment from The Source.
The journalists had gathered at the Meikles, Harare, for the briefing but would not allow an Econet executive to open the proceedings with a prayer. All hell broke loose, with the journalists singing revolutionary songs. The press conference was abandoned shortly afterwards, before Econet executives read out their statement.
Media freedom campaigners have accused Econet Wireless Holdings and its founder Masiyiwa of using bullying tactics and ‘corporate tyranny’ to silence journalists probing their allegedly murky affairs.
The condemnation comes after Masiyiwa’s firm seized computers from the Thomson Reuters-linked Harare-based website, The Source, claiming the publication had stolen its documents.
Armed with a court order whose validity was challenged in the High Court, Econet used police and CIO operatives to raid The Source on Thursday. They took away several computers, crippling operations of the media upstart and sending alarm into the country’s media already under siege from Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime.
This followed publication of stories claiming that Econet had donated $30 million to the Mugabe dictatorship, given as a loan but unlikely to be repaid by the bankrupt Harare regime. The donation riled investors and shareholders worldwide and the raid is seen as an attempt at damage control. In another story, The Source said Econet had allowed Mugabe’s cousin and Masiyiwa’s business associate Phillip Chiyangwa to pay off business debts using land seized forcibly and without compensation from white farmers.
“Econet Wireless must not be allowed to use bully tactics on Zimbabwean journalists carrying out legitimate business,” said analyst Rashweat Mukundu.
Lawyer Vote Muza said it was ironic that Econet was abusing the same ‘free expression’ argument that won it a licence nearly 20 years ago.
Econet held a press conference Friday defending the raid.
(c) 2015 Now Daily.