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Journalists Ditch Pens, Heckle Econet Wireless Attorney

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe

About 50 angry journalists mobbed and heckled Econet Wireless and Steward Bank officials on Friday in Harare and stopped them from holding a press conference, demanding that they should apologize for raiding offices of The Source News Agency on Thursday.

Econet Wireless used a court order to seize what it said were company documents being allegedly used illegally by the news agency, affiliated to Reuters News Agency.

Econet Wireless lawyer Tawanda Nyambirai refused to apologize even under intense pressure from the journalists, who claimed that the move by the company to raid the news agency was undermining press freedom.

The raiding of the news agency by the deputy sheriff relates to two published stories in which Econet Wireless is alleged to have extended a $30 million loan to the government. The other story is about businessman, Philip Chiyangwa, who was allegedly using land to pay off a $2.1 million Econet and Steward Bank debt.

As Nyambirai tried to read his prepared speech, the journalists told him to apologize first, saying Econet and Steward Bank were gagging the media.

Tempers flared and hotel security had to be called before journalists walked of out of the press conference venue at an upmarket local hotel.

Secretary general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Foster Dongozi, said the raiding of The Source newsroom was unbelievable.

An attorney of The Source news agency, Chris Mhike, who arrived at the press conference venue shortly after the cancellation of the event, said it’s not too late to resolve the matter amicably.

Econet and its finance house, Steward Bank, were authorized by the High Court to search the company’s premises and seize its computers without the news agency’s consent.

The mobile telecommunications giant says it feared that its private commercial documents were in the wrong hands.