Heinous attack on NewsDay shameful

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Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu must be commended for being one of the first people to condemn the dastardly attack on NewsDay this week.

The minister expressed his disgust at the criminal act perpetrated on the newspaper and called on the police to leave no stone unturned in their investigations.

Obviously this gives the media fraternity confidence and the much-needed sense of security from an arm of government responsible for the welfare and safe existence of journalists.

The theft of production equipment in the form of laptops and computer components from the newsroom is still under police investigation but rudimentary analysis of the motive points at an obvious intent to disable or at least disturb the smooth flowing production of the newspaper.

Without discounting common criminality, it is difficult to ignore the possibility of political motive.

The suspicion is informed by episodes, ugly and curious, that we have witnessed since the birth of NewsDay in June last year.

In what may have been an ominous prelude to this week’s attack, a marketing team out to launch the newspaper encountered violent resistance in areas such as Mbare where the team and its van was briefly detained by police.

After that we had incidents of NewsDay vendors being attacked and their newspapers confiscated, taken away, burned or torn to pieces in Harare and many other parts of the country.

We were accused by this lot of obviously unlearned goons of being “unpatriotic” in our coverage of Zanu PF activities.

These were isolated incidents, sparked in most cases by hate speeches spewed at Zanu PF political gatherings.

Police arrested and charged some of the culprits who turned out to be part of rowdy and overzealous political activists acting on their own over-excitement.

While the attack on newspaper vendors may be a result of misguided party thuggery, the theft on Monday night of NewsDay equipment was a clearly well-calculated affair. Minister Shamu described it as “diabolic behaviour”.

“The one who did this is against freedom of speech and expression (and) against dispensation to have many voices and is against democracy,” said the minister. The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe said it viewed the theft as “an attack on the freedom of the press in Zimbabwe and as an act that is aimed at crippling the newspaper, in an attempt to stop it from fulfilling its mandate of informing the citizenry”.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, too, did not view this as common theft and urged police to get to the bottom of the matter.

Dumisani Sibanda, the ZUJ president, said: “We call upon the police to leave no stone unturned in efforts to bring the culprit(s) to book because they are an enemy of society which was just beginning to enjoy the fruits of media reforms that have seen a number of newspapers entering the market.”

In that vein we would be the last to discard as unfounded the possibility of something beyond common theft, the unfortunate attack on our newsroom.

We also, as our CEO Raphael Khumalo has said, have confidence in the ongoing police investigations and believe we will get to know what really transpired at the end of their probe.

We, however, condemn this barbaric, needless and completely wicked attack on the newspaper and the Zimbabwean media as a whole.

Whoever had a hand in this monstrosity ought to be ashamed of their cowardly, evil and irresponsible misdeed.