Independent Media in Zimbabwe: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Just when a glimmer of hope for some space for independent journalism in at least one authoritarian country had appeared – bam!

CIMA featured the Zimbabwean online business news site, The Source, in a paper last year about how business and economic journalism can provide an avenue into high-quality, independent reporting.

Thursday, police and lawyers from Zimbabwe’s largest mobile phone operator raided The Source’s office, going through e-mails and other documents and downloading them onto a flash drive, the Reuters news agency reported.

The raid was a result of a dispute between Econet Wireless and the news site over stories the agency published in February and March of this year. Econet argued in court that the stories were based on internal company documents and had been used without permission, and a judge issued an order allowing the company to search the offices of the source and “seize” the information in question. The Source is seeking to have the case referred to the Constitutional Court on grounds that it violates rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The Source was created by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the European Journalism Centre. Thursday the two organizations issued a statement condemning the raid.

“We deeply regret today’s events,” said Monique Villa, Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO. “Although the Source is now independent from us, we are close to the editorial team in Harare, which implements the highest standards of journalism with fair, accurate and impartial reporting at its core.”

Wilfried Ruetten, the Director of the European Journalism Centre, said, “We regret the events in Harare and ask the authorities to ensure that the Source continues to provide citizens and stakeholders with trusted financial and business news and analysis.”

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general Foster Dongozi said the action by Econet and Steward was a “brazen attack on press freedom.”

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