Dear Geoff Nyarota, “Media interference can be broadly defined as the influencing or manipulation of journalists and media outlets internally or externally, and from within or outside the country, to facilitate favourable news content, production and presentation. These pressures on the mainstream media exist in most countries for political, personal and economic reasons….” — IMPI Report.

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nyarota

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There was collective dismay among journalists following your publication of an opinion piece in the Financial Gazette of April 9-15 2015 titled “Journalism versus media activism” in which you essentially attacked representatives of media organisations including the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe for showing solidarity with The Source News agency following a raid orchestrated by Econet and its subsidiary, Steward Bank.

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Two weeks ago, Econet obtained a High Court order to effect a search and seizure of documents at the news agency following the publication of stories based on documents which had allegedly been stolen.
\nNo journalist appears to share your views that we should be indulgent with those who violate press freedom and the rights and safety of journalists.

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I am sure on April 15, the reception you received from some journalists at the Quill Club was testimony enough that you were clearly offside on the issue.

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One colleague opined: “He (Geoff) is looking for another job, he is a willing conduit of oppression….”

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That is why you were warned that they were prepared to denounce you in public just as they had enounced Econet. It was unprofessional and unethical of you to savage the union while hiding behind Econet and Steward Bank to fight personal battles. That kind of behaviour might give the impression that you are petty.

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Some years ago at The Daily News, some journalists, myself included, restrained a colleague who wanted to pulverise you after you transferred him to Manicaland for demanding better working conditions on behalf of employees.

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He was calling you a “media terrorist” for the transfer but we held him back and you went home unscathed. Why do you always appear to fight against the rights of working journalists, especially young journalists.

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Not long after the incident, you would find the locks to your offices at The Daily News changed and locked.

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You came to ZUJ and in typical trade union solidarity, we wrote you a supporting letter to the effect that you had been fired and could anybody out there support you in any way possible.
\nThe same ZUJ that you write about in disparaging terms came to your rescue and counselled you that you had been a worker like others at Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe and never an employer like the people you try to defend with such disastrous consequences.

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Over the years, most of what I have heard about you has been the little cat fights that you engage in with very young journalists. The fierce debates have invariably centred around the call you are alleged to have made for the deployment of the military in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces in the early 1980s with very grave consequences, resulting in the deaths of over 20 000 civilians.

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Other allegations that I have read about and heard of, include claims that the famous Willowgate Scandal story was broken by your juniors, among them Tichaona Mukuku when you were the editor of The Chronicle newspaper in Bulawayo. The juniors were subsequently elbowed out of the “juicy” story.

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Last week, the issue came up again with young journalists suggesting that the story was given to you on a silver platter by Obert Mpofu, implying it was not a product of investigative journalism
\nMpofu has claimed in court that he was paid handsomely for being the whistle blower in the Willowgate story which he gave you.

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I remember an interview with the late Enos Nkala in which he claimed that the Willowgate story was one of the theatres of the ZANU-PF succession wars which resulted in some undesirables being weeded out.

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Why are you offended by the presence of ZUJ and other media organisations at a press conference?

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There is no law that prohibits ZUJ officials from attending a press conference as they are journalists and would be within their rights to provide solidarity with distressed colleagues just as we did when you were rendered jobless. That is our business — we provide solidarity for the appreciative and the ingrates.

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The action was designed to make a statement that we would not tolerate any press freedom violations. If Econet and Steward Bank were going to gag the media by searching and seizing documents, we would respond in kind.

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We will continue to advocate for the rights and safety of journalists even if 30 pieces of silver are dangled before us.
\nBut as is often the case Geoff, it is also possible, as many people have done, to mistake brass for gold.

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Foster Dongozi is the secretary-general of ZUJ