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Zimbabwe's Econet Wireless Charges Defamation by Independent Newspaper

Econet Wireless has accused the Independent newspaper of publishing articles last month it considers defamatory, and wants the High Court to bar further such publication on the publisher's website

Econet Wireless of Zimbabwe, the country's leading mobile phone service provider, has asked the High Court to issue an injunction barring the Independent newspaper from publishing what it maintains is Web content that defames the company.

Econet charged that the paper published articles last month it considers defamatory, and wants the High Court to bar further such publication on its website.

Econet named Alpha Media Holdings, parent of the Independent, the marketing and distribution firm Munn Marketing, printer Strand Multiprint and the web site host Webdev as well as business mogul Nicholas van Hoogstraten, among others.

Econet wants the High Court to stop Alpha Media Holdings newspapers from publishing, printing, or distributing any material that undermines the company's reputation.

Studio Seven was unable to obtain comment from Econet or its legal representative as to its specific objections. Alpha Media Holdings Chief Executive Raphael Khumalo said it is saddening to see such an application sought against his newspaper.

He said the Independent has merely reported on a public company.

The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe voiced concern at Econet’s move, saying that the High Court application looks like an attempt to block the publication of information of public interest. The media watchdog said Econet itself lobbied under Section 20 of Zimbabwe's Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and access to information, to establish itself, but seems now to be trampling on that right.

Media Council Executive Director Takura Zhangazha told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that his group is encouraging those who believe they have been unfairly treated by the media to work through its media complaints committee, before going to law.