Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) yesterday said allegations of misconduct levelled against its journalists by Reserve Bank advisor Munyaradzi Kereke, were part of attempts to frustrate investigative journalism.
AMH are publishers of Zimbabwe’s leading privately-owned newspapers, NewsDay, The Standard and the Zimbabwe Independent as well as several magazines.
Kereke launched a publicity blitz soon after The Standard published a story alleging his medical insurance company GreenCard Medical Aid Society was facing collapse.
He caused the arrest of Nevanji Madanhire, editor of The Standard, and reporter Nqaba Matshazi on criminal defamation charges.
The businessman bought acres of advertorial space from rival newspapers where he made a number of complaints against AMH.
But in a statement, the company said “never have we had so many allegations of extortion, and all emanating from one man”.
“Kereke complains that we have not investigated these allegations,” reads part of the statement.
“Whilst we do not want to engage in a messy public debate with Kereke, we do feel that it is necessary to answer his allegations.”
The company said it had investigated all complaints and taken corrective action where necessary.
“Kereke also knows very well that if he has legitimate complaints, he can bring legal proceedings,” the statement added.
AMH said the real reason behind the businessman’s complaints was the story published by The Standard on his medical aid society.
“He was not happy with the report and immediately lodged complaints with the police against the newspaper’s editor and the author of the story.
“Kereke had them arrested and then prevailed on the prosecutor to ask the court to muzzle all the Alpha Media group’s newspapers.
“The court declined to do so,” the company said.
It said The Standard had been investigating a very serious allegation of criminal conduct on the part of Kereke, which was under consideration by the authorities.
“Kereke was aware of this and was very keen to ensure that the story was not published.
“For this reason, Kereke went out of his way to attack our newspapers and staff in order to deter us from publishing the story and to discredit us,” AMH added.
In his advertorials and letters written to media organisations, Kereke claimed to have paid off a couple of AMH journalists.
“With all due respect, this is not the sort of behaviour one expects of a law-abiding citizen.
“If and when Kereke was threatened with a view to extortion, he ought to have immediately gone to the police.
“He knows that and he had no difficulty whatsoever in running to the police to complain about criminal defamation when he did not like the story about his medical aid society.”
AMH said it had a code of conduct and expected its journalists to adhere to it without fail.
“If and when we find that an employee had erred, corrective measures are taken,” the company said.
“The group has been publishing for many years. Never have we had such a string of allegations of extortion against our journalists, and all of them from one man.
“We are in no doubt that the public allegations were intended to deflect attention from our investigative stories and to deter our journalists from doing their jobs.
“We remain committed to journalistic ethics and will continue to publish without fear or favour.”