The offices in Harare of Zimbabwean business and financial news agency The Source were raided by police and lawyers from Zimbabwe’s largest mobile phone operator on March 26, an act condemned by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and European Journalism Centre, creators of the news agency.
The reason for the raid, in which internal correspondence and documents were retrieved, were stories published by The Source, which is an online service, in February and March, Reuters said.
The stories had angered mobile operator Econet Wireless and its subsidiary Steward Bank, which did not dispute their content but accused the agency of unauthorised use of internal documents.
The raid, branded by Zimbabwe Union of Journalists chief Foster Dongozi as a “brazen attack on press freedom”, had been authorised by a High Court judge, who granted Econet and Steward an order to search The Source’s premises and computers for information belonging to the firms and “to seize and place such information in the custody of the Registrar” of the court.
The Source challenged the action and sought to have the case referred to the Constitutional Court, arguing the order violated constitutional rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
“We deeply regret today’s events. Although The Source is now independent from us, we are close to The Source editorial team in Harare, which implements the highest standards of business journalism with fair, accurate and impartial reporting at its core,” said Monique Villa, chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“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,” said Wilfried Ruetten, director of the European Journalism Centre.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation and the European Journalism Centre created The Source with core funding from the Dutch government two years ago. The Source is now independent from the Foundation.