Minister of Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, media groups and ordinary Zimbabweans have condemned the break-in at the NewsDay offices and the theft of equipment, urging the police to thoroughly investigate the matter.
The thieves got away with the editor Brian Mangwende’s laptop and ransacked computers used by other senior editorial staff at the newspaper stealing hard-drives which contained vital information and data.
“This has come at time we have plurality and diversity in the media industry which helps educate and inform the people,” said Shamu.
He said it was wrong for people to destroy such vital equipment and urged the police to do all they could to ensure the culprit(s) were brought to book.
“Such behaviour is diabolic, but it is also a warning to all media houses to step up their security so that such people don’t have access to important information.”
Shamu said the culprits did not only affect Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), which publishes the newspaper, but all the NewsDay readers.
“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 Media Institute for Southern Africa-Zimbabwe (Misa) urged the police to be thorough in their investigations and send a strong message to would-be criminals of similar intent that Zimbabwe more than ready to defend Press freedom.
“This incident should be given the seriousness it deserves and should not linger unresolved considering the deafening silence on what became of the investigations into the bombings of The Daily News offices and printing press in 2000 and 2001 respectively. No one has been arrested for the Daily News bombings since then,” Misa-Zimbabwe said, in a statement.
Media watchdog the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) said it strongly condemned the illegal entry into newspaper offices and the theft of equipment.
“VMCZ views the break-in at the NewsDay offices 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,’ VMCZ said.
“VMCZ calls on the police to bring those responsible to justice. VMCZ also urges members of the public to actively protect the media fraternity and journalists from unwarranted attacks or to report any threats or intimidation of journalists to the police,” they said.
The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) described the incident as unfortunate affront to press freedom.
“Whoever did this committed a sacrilegious act because Press freedom is the bastion of democracy which is the oxygen of any progressive society,” said Dumisani Sibanda, ZUJ president.
“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.”
The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) said: “Surely this is the work of the enemies of justice, truth and Press freedom.
The HRT commends the courage of the media in Zimbabwe to expose corruption and promote development.”
NewsDay readers added their voices expressing their anger at the attack on the popular newspaper’s offices.
“That is a clear sign that NewsDay is doing very well and are the market leader,” said Tania Marimo from Gweru.
Another reader, Prince Mabvurira, said: “This is not the work of an ordinary thief who steals to put bread on his small family’s table, but of a professional bent on crippling the paper’s operations and he/she should be on someone’s payroll and the media community will jubilate when he/she is caught.”
NewsDay was inundated with calls from politicians from across the political divide sympathising with the newspaper saying it was giving them a balanced diet of critical issues besetting the country.