By Stanley Gama, Daily News Editor
HARARE – On Thursday afternoon, I received a strange call from Tendai Mugabe, a reporter at The Herald.
He asked me a weird question that I, together with the NewsDay Editor Brian Mangwende and The Independent Editor Constantine Chimakure, had been bribed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai not to write stories about his supposed marriage to Locadia Karimatsenga.
I did not know whether to laugh or cry about this mischievous allegation but nonetheless I decided to respond.
The Herald went on to publish the story yesterday. What is strange about this plot is that The Herald is accusing the Daily News and other newspapers of not writing the Tsvangirai story yet The Herald itself is not writing anything about the same story.
Were they also bribed by Tsvangirai not to write the story? If they have the story why are they not writing it? Before going into the conversation, I want to make it clear that for the record, the story that private media journalists received bribes from Tsvangirai is not only false, it is foolish.
This story has been going on for some time and last year, there were reports that private media editors had been given credit cards with $3 million dollars. Where has that ever happened, even in Utopia?
If anything, the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday, papers which I am editor, extensively covered the Tsvangirai/Karimatsenga story and I believe we wrote more stories on the issue than The Herald.
Our coverage of the story actually invited negative criticism from Tsvangirai’s people who accused us of wanting to destroy their leader.
We did not stop writing what we thought was news then and up to now if anything newsworthy comes out of the Tsvangirai/Karimatsenga issue, we will not hesitate to publish it without fear or favour.
The story about editors being bribed in The Herald yesterday is not only false but does not meet the basic standards of journalism. Let me also take this opportunity to state clearly that I have lots of respect for The Herald editor, William Chikoto and the Zimpapers chief operating officer Pikirayi Deketeke.
I salute the two God-fearing men for helping me walk in the field of journalism when I came crawling, back in 1998. This is not the kind of journalism they taught me and I was not surprised to hear that the real editor of The Herald was not on duty when this weird story was written.
Having worked at Zimpapers, I have many friends and I must point out that most of them are professionals. I have no problems with The Herald at all but I raise issue with the editor who passed the story for publication. The basic principles of journalism were not met in The Herald story.
Here I am talking of the five fundamental and basic principles of journalism — who, what, why, how and when. These were not answered. The story does not tell the people when this happened, where we met Tsvangirai, and more many questions which remain unanswered.
Any editor who passed through a journalism school like most of us would have easily answered the above before publishing the falsehoods.
I appreciate that there might be some editors who did not go through journalism school but surely these are basics which the worst of editors, including those parachuted through political backdoors should understand.
These are basics which are learnt on the first few days at a journalism college. Really our journalism has gone to the dogs. As an editor, I would be ashamed to run such a story even under extreme political pressure.
To the editors who passed the story for publication, I need to ask a question — if the Daily News gets rumours that a senior editor at The Herald is sexually abusing young vulnerable female journalists or we receive unsubstantiated reports that the editors there are employing their girlfriends, do we rush to write a story?
No, because some of us went through a journalism school where we were taught ethics. It is a shame that a few individuals at The Herald allow themselves to be used by some uncouth politician and gay gangster masquerading as a political strategist for Zanu PF.
I know the story was manufactured by this gangster politician, whose mission is nothing except to get rid of President Robert Mugabe. He has tried it many times and later became desperate and even engaged Americans to help him but so far he has failed all because he is a fool.
However, I have problems with him using gullible editors to pursue trivial issues in a bid to silence the private media from writing about Zanu PF.
But we will not be silenced, you can silence me by killing me (I hear there is a plot like that by some political prostitutes) but you can’t silence the people. I am only one out of 14 million people.
As I pointed out in my response in The Herald, I don’t believe presidential spokesperson George Charamba is involved because since we started publishing last year, we have had a very professional engagement.
At times we argue, he points out where he thinks we would have gone overboard but the engagements have remained professional and I have lots of respect for someone like that.
I don’t understand why Zanu PF trusts the man who manufactured this rubbish. They will regret one day. We are aware it will be dog eat dog come election time but with this kind of behaviour so early in the year, it means towards elections our heads will be cut off.
Lastly, I would like to point out that the story that I received cash from the Prime Minister makes interesting reading because this Christmas was the most miserable I have ever experienced because I was extremely broke.
If only I had that kind of money!
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