ALPHA Media Holdings (AMH) has castigated The Herald for abusing and forsaking the tenets of journalism in a desperate attempt to soil the good image of NewsDay, the country’s leading privately-owned independent daily.
This followed a malicious and false report carried by the State-controlled daily yesterday claiming that a multimedia journalist at the stable had been deployed outside the country to train in regime change programmes.
AMH are the publishers of NewsDay, NewsDay Weekender, Southern Eye, The Standard and Zimbabwe Independent and operates Heart and Soul Broadcasting Services.
In a front page article, The Herald claimed that an unnamed NewsDay multimedia journalist was among eight people allegedly undergoing training in the Maldives with the sole purpose of toppling President Emmerson
Mnangagwa’s regime. But AMH, in a statement, dismissed the story as malicious, unethical, vexatious, false and an attempt to soil the rapidly growing paper’s image.
“While we subscribe to the principle of freedom of the Press and freedom of expression, we take great exception when such freedoms are abused with reckless abandon to achieve sinister agendas. For the record, all our journalists, including multimedia journalists, are in Zimbabwe at the moment,” the statement read.
“We do not have any of our practitioners or members of staff outside the country. The writer in question one, Lawson Mabhena did not speak to anyone to verify such falsehoods. One of the tenets of good journalism is to allow us the right to respond, of which no effort was made to get the facts right from ourselves.”
AMH titles have grabbed a huge market share owing to its balanced and ethical reportage, and The Herald’s attempts to paint the newspaper as a “terrorist or political outpost” should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.
The statement added: “Journalism is a science of verifying facts. And this piece of poor journalism by Mabhena, which was approved for publication by Tichaona Zindoga, the acting Editor of the country’s oldest newspaper is stuff fit for thespians.
“In fact, this piece of gutter journalism shows that some of those holding the reigns at the glass and mortar building have a fertile sense of imagination only fit for fiction. Such reckless news reports by these so called journalists only serve to polarise this noble profession.”
AMH dismissed Mabhena and The Herald acting editor as outright liars and fiction mongers.
“We, therefore, put it on record that the article is malicious, vexatious, false and an attempt to tarnish our good image and should be disregarded as a piece of yellow journalism which should be condemned with the contempt it deserves,” AMH said.
Both Mabhena and Zindoga distanced themselves from the story, which reportedly came as a “special project”, but found space on The Herald’s front page.
Mabhena was at a loss for words: “I am sorry the story came very late. I would not want this to happen to me. Can I ask the acting editor to call you?”
Zindoga concurred: “My apologies, it was a project we got. It could have been a case of lack of probity; we could have called you for a comment. I didn’t realise we did not remove the name of the publication. Let me see if I can do something. So sorry.” But by last night no correction had been made on their online version.
The main opposition MDC also described the alleged banditry trainings as “a creation of Zanu PF and the military State”.
In a statement yesterday, MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said: “We see this as an attempt to attack and annihilate dissent. The economy is crumbling, fuel shortages continue unabated, cash shortages, electricity and water rationing is the order of the day and the military government knows that people will complain. However, to muzzle the people and cower them, the failed government creates theories to criminalise the constitutionally guaranteed ways to express genuine grievances by the suffering masses.”
The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), which was also named as being involved in the plot to unleash violence in the country, said it was dismayed and alarmed by The Herald’s “reckless and patently false” article.
WALPE said the story lacked all basic ethical requirements and went on to make “brazenly false” allegations designed to malign the name and good standing of the organisation.
“This story makes grave allegations of violence and plots to illegally oust the government which can have far-reaching consequences for WALPE, its workers and membership,” WALPE said.
“Basic journalistic ethics demand that a journalist should balance the story by giving all concerned parties an opportunity to share their side of the story around the allegations from the primary source yet this basic tenet was not followed. Instead, The Herald went on to put out a story which is laced with editorial intrusions with a hidden agenda of tarnishing the image and reputation of WALPE.”
WALPE said the actions by Mabhena, Zindoga and the parent company Zimpapers board were clearly a violation of the law and demanded unconditional retraction of the false story and an apology.
“As WALPE, we declare that we are not a violent organisation and are committed only to the empowerment of women to take up leadership positions from local to national levels,” their statement said.
The Rozaria Memorial Trust, yet another organisation mentioned in The Herald story, also said it was appalled by the false story, saying it was a non-political and non-partisan organisation which does not subscribe to violence.
“We, therefore, make it clear that we retain the legal right to protect ourselves under the laws of the country from any malicious reporting. We are demanding an urgent and public retraction as we seek the necessary legal advice to vindicate our reputation.