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Online publication raided by Econet and Steward Bank issues statement

We have just received a statement from the online publication, The Source, on the events that have happened around their offices being raided by Econet Wireless executives accompanied by the Sheriff and Police. The statement essentially calls out Econet Wireless and Steward Bank on their actions since yesterday, apparently exposing the ill intent of the two companies against the press.

Here’s the full statement:

Press Statement by The Source News Agency

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27 March 2015

The Press Release from Steward Bank Regarding the Raid on The Source News Agency, dated 27th March 2015 and apparently authored by Mtetwa & Nyambirai Legal Practitioners has been placed in the public domain.

  1. We are surprised that Econet Wireless and Steward Bank through Mtetwa & Nyambirai Legal Practitioner have taken the public route of a Press Release when the issues they raise in the Release are presently pending before courts of law in the form of incomplete court cases.
  1. 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.
  1. While Econet Wireless and Steward Bank allege in the Press Statement that confidential information “was stolen,” they do not deign to show how The Source or its reporters are complicit in this alleged theft.
  1. While Econet Wireless and Steward Bank allege that certain “responsible journalists” afforded them the right of reply and opted not to publish, these companies, whose statement clearly shows they presume to pontificate about the intricacies of good journalism, fail to appreciate the basic principle of editorial independence. Further, pliant journalism has, throughout history, often been confused with responsible journalism by the privileged and powerful who, oftentimes, might have something to hide. The fact that some news outlets opted not to run a story has absolutely no bearing on The Source’s editorial decisions.
  1. Comment was definitely sought from both Econet Wireless and Steward Bank, as well as from other parties linked to the relevant stories. This fact is evident in the stories in question, one which carries a response issued by Econet and another in which the opportunity to comment was demonstrably given to the firms, who spurned it. This is also clearly backed up by information that has been seized by Econet Wireless and Steward Bank, and in relevant records that are in the possession of The Source.
  1. The Source respects the rights of all citizens, particularly the right to privacy and banker-client confidentiality. As a duly licenced media house and a member of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, The Source is bound by, and subscribes to, the principles of responsible journalism and media accountability.  In that vein therefore, aggrieved parties are encouraged to engage self-regulatory mechanisms to resolve disputes. These have proven to be sensitive not only to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media, but to the concept of privacy and the dignity of the individual as well. 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.
  1. 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 & Nyambirai would convey the message that stories about toxic bank loans are not a public interest issue.
  1. While Econet Wireless and Steward Bank decry the undermining of “the very foundations of our banking system,” they fail to admit that what has essentially undermined the banking system in Zimbabwe in the past decade, is the high incidence of imprudent and unethical business practices by bankers, which practices have been kept largely unreported by the dark cloak of banker-client confidentiality.
  1. The allegation that Mr. Douglas Mboweni and Econet Wireless communicated with the Editor of The Source is categorically denied. No such communication or meeting took place; and there is no record of any Econet request being made to the Source. We challenge Econet Wireless and Steward Bank to provide proof of this before perpetuating this fictitious account.
  1. The Source respects our Courts of Law, and it looks up to the same judicial authorities for protection when journalistic rights are threatened, hence the filing of an Urgent Chamber Application at the High Court of Zimbabwe for the referral of constitutional questions to the Constitutional Court.
  1. The Source had hoped for restraint on the part of Econet Wireless and Steward Bank in respect of their search and seizure action, at least up to the time of the delivery of a ruling in the Urgent Chamber Application.
  1. While the Court Order was executed by Econet Wireless and Steward Bank with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Sheriff, that does not detract from the fact that this unprecedented search and seizure operation has induced a sense of shock among journalists at The Source and at other media houses.
  1. Econet Wireless and Steward Bank go to town in their Statement about how Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media should be applied.  However, neither these companies nor their legal representative can authoritatively make a determination on the accuracy of their views, with finality.  That is why The Source has requested for the referral of these kinds of constitutional questions to the Constitutional Court.
  1. What must be condemned by all progressive Zimbabweans, are the actions of powerful institutions and individuals who seek Court Orders for the revelation of journalistic sources, in clear violation of enshrined fundamental media rights.
  1. Finally, 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 instill the fear of the devil into the newsroom at The Source, and into the media industry.

ENDS//

Issued for and on behalf of Source-Net (Pvt) Ltd by Cris Chinaka, Chairman of the board of Trustees of The Source Trust.


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8 thoughts on “Online publication raided by Econet and Steward Bank issues statement

  1. Them’s fightin’ words! I must say, that’s a well written, congent PR.

    I hope the ConCourt doesn’t weasel out of this case by reserving judgement.

  2. 1. (I’m not sure, but) I think the Court Order that gave Econet Zimbabwe the right to raid The Source might have been obtained as an URGENT EXPARTE CHAMBER APPLICATION (i.e. an Antony Piller Order), where the other party is not notified or heard, and is just ambushed, like what was done to The Source. The Source cannot oppose a Court Order which was already being executed with the Sheriff & Police and Econet functionaries in their offices. In my view there was no judgment, there was just an order, maybe the judgment will come later and generally it’s difficult to appeal against an order without the benefit of the process of reasoning that is normally contained in a judgment and that will come later when the order has already been executed.

    2. That’s why you will find with all these abductions and raids, there is now heavy security barriers at some media houses and several CCTV all over to prevent such things as Econet has done or simply abductions. Econet & Steward bank have really set a bad precedent. I for one would want to see the judgment authorizing the raid on The Source and discern the process of reasoning. Maybe someone in the meantime can avail the High Court Order electronically in the public domain!

    3. Our Constitution, does not state which right is more important than the other, but obviously the right to life is more important as it is the means by which all other rights are enjoyed. What the Constitution does say in section 86 (1) on LIMITATION OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS is that “The fundamental rights and freedoms set out in [the Constitution] must be exercised reasonably and with due regard for the rights and freedoms of other persons.”

    4. However, section 61(2) (Freedom of expression and freedom of the media) states that: – “Every person is entitled to freedom of the media, which freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information.” I think the Court Order by which The Source was raided clearly violates s 61 (2) of the Constitution and it was wrong for a constitutional right to be violated without affording The Source a chance to reply as per the principles of natural justice.

    5. I say so because the whole reason of having Exparte applications is because if the other person knows that you are going to get a warrant of search &/or seizure, they will simply hide the information where it will never be found. But given that there was a clash of constitutional rights, Econet’s right to privacy / dignity as well as The Source’s right to privacy as well as s 61 (2) right, it was very important for both parties to be heard.

    6. Well, I might be wrong, but this is my off-the-cuff ex-tempore judgment on this issue and I am not happy at all with Corporates that use their financial muscles to intimidate other natural and corporate citizens.

  3. so mr Anonymous you wanted you are in support of journos stealing infor and publish and expect to to get away with it? all in the name of not “revealing your source”…. its clear that these guys as stated in the statement from Econet and Steward, before the Source published it didnt give the company the write to reply kuti ichokwadi here kana kuti nyaya iyi manyepo.

    1. What do you mean by stealing? How would bad news be reported if its not stolen? You expect an Econet PR to send a communique to the media houses about bad things happening at their organisation?

  4. I don’t want my banking or business information to end up in the press. Good job Steward Bank and Econet! You deserve my respect!

  5. I actually read the order and section 4 of the “interim relief order” clearly empowers Econet /Bank to act in the manner it did for the protection of its customers? is there a legal mind that can illuminate why the Source believes that it was illegal

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