Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Zim Media: Luke-ing the Fiction in the Eye: Response by publishers of the Daily News

After last week’s hard hitting Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye column by Luke Tamborinyoka titled: “AMH capture a death knell for media plurality and the media reform agenda” in which he stated that “most of the privately-owned media have been captured by the regime” the publishers of the Daily News have issued a strong statement to Nehanda Radio denying that they were captured.

Below is the full response by Chris Goko the Director and Group Deputy CEO of Jester Media Services (Pvt) Ltd.

By Chris Goko

The opinion piece by Mr Luke Tamborinyoka on Zimbabwe’s mainstream media which was carried by Nehanda Radio on Friday 7 October 2022 refers.

Debates around the country’s major media houses, including the industry’s dynamics and ownership trends, are important and healthy. It is part of democratic discourse which should be encouraged.

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That said, and while robust attentiveness to what is being reported, and by whom, can be a good thing, misplaced cynicism and outright fabrications — including when this is done by dishonest politicians, such as was the case with Mr Tamborinyoka’s hatchet piece of last week — is not kosher at all.

Mr Tamborinyoka’s polemic was especially disappointing for someone who wants to be seen as a former “award-winning journalist”, and who further proudly describes himself as an “ardent political scientist, change champion and interim deputy secretary for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC)”.

In this regard, it is our fervent hope that his many fanciful claims and ill-advisedly agitational utterances about the local media generally do not represent the views of CCC, a major political organisation in our country and potential future governing party, or that of his principals — seeing that he is associated with CCC’s “presidential affairs”. Were that the case, it would be both tragic and ominous.

I shall largely restrict myself to commenting in some detail on Mr Tamborinyoka’s false claims around corporate matters relating to the Jester Media Services Group — whose subsidiaries include Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (which publishes the Daily News and the Daily News On Sunday) and Modus Media (which publishes The Financial Gazette).

My colleagues in editorial, as is right and appropriate, will defend their news policies and thrusts in their own way going forward, should they wish to do so.

Among Mr Tamborinyoka’s troubling statements in his rabble-rousing piece, which included the despicable abuse of the names of deceased businesspeople like Mr Douglas Munatsi and Mr Oliver Chidawu — who he knows cannot defend their names against his lies — were sweeping claims to the effect that all privately-owned media, including JMS, were now allegedly “captured by the regime” or had been bought, or taken over by politically exposed persons.

This is simply false. In fact, utter nonsense.

For the record, and as any rookie reporter, let alone an “award-winning journalist”, should be able to establish easily from any number of sources, Jester Media Services (Pvt) Ltd — a company that was formally incorporated three decades ago — is 100 percent owned by former journalist, editor and businessman Mr Jethro Goko and his wife Dr Esther Goko. Indeed, all this information is in the public domain.

In this light, Modus Media (Pvt) Ltd is a 100 percent-owned subsidiary of JMS. And so is 3Ktv. JMS also has a controlling interest in Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe. Between JMS and the next big shareholder in ANZ — a UK registered entity led by experienced newspaperman Mr Derek Smail — the two partners control more than 90% of ANZ. The rest of the equity in this subsidiary company is owned by well-known local firms and individuals.

So, given the above, how can JMS, or any company under its fold, or its media offerings be said to be “captured”? Is it Mr Tamborinyoka’s crass proposition that media outlets are only not “captured” when they are slavish promoters of the political party that he belongs to, and of which he is a supposed official?

Again, for the record, Mr Munatsi and Mr Chidawu never had anything to do with Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, Modus Media, the Daily News or The Financial Gazette in any way or form.

All of Mr Tamborinyoka’s claims in this regard are thus bare-faced lies — a total fabrication.

We are also perplexed about how Mr Tamborinyoka managed to drag the name of Mr Stanley Gama into his unfounded conspiracy theories.

While it is not prudent to discuss ex-colleagues, we would be very happy to sit down with him and Mr Gama — should the latter be happy for us to do this — to avail formal documentation (not pub rumours) that irrefutably shows that Mr Gama did not leave the Daily News “unceremoniously” as falsely claimed by Mr Tamborinyoka.

Later on in his hatchet piece, Mr Tamborinyoka — an ex-Daily News junior editorial manager — threw in the line that he now wished not to be associated with the only growing daily newspaper in the country, as if anyone except himself ever attempted to link his name to the title. At any rate, it is his democratic right to not associate himself with the newspaper, and if this was meant to be an insult, then he better think again.

For an ex-journalist who still wants to be seen as an authority on the local media, and who passed through the Daily News and The Financial Gazette newsrooms, Mr Tamborinyoka may also wish to spruce up his scant knowledge of the industry — especially seeing how embarrassingly clueless he is about the corporate structure of JMS, ANZ and Modus.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to comment on Mr Tamborinyoka’s polemic, vis-à-vis its key import in relation to media freedom in our country. Indeed, what is his understanding of this, and do his views represent CCC’s attitude towards the media?

This is crucial, seeing that recent attacks on the private media have come from unexpected quarters that could in future constitute the government of our country, and who one would ordinarily expect to be some of press freedom’s staunchest defenders.

Yet, here they are, the Tamborinyokas and other pseudo-democrats of this world, leading the onslaught and making explicit and egregious attempts to silence independent media voices like the Daily News, while shamelessly moving to affirm news outlets that serve as PR outlets for their parties. This is disgraceful.

Interestingly, before the late Mr Chidawu’s name was falsely linked to the Daily News by those who share ideological views with Mr Tamborinyoka, they manufactured another blue lie that businessman Mr Kuda Tagwirei owned the newspaper.

And before they besmirched the memory of Mr Munatsi, they also falsely accused other prominent businesspeople like Mr John Mushayavanhu of being imaginary mid-wives to the supposed takeover of the Daily News by the “regime”.

This wicked modus operandi, ironically, is a tactic that was employed by misguided elements in the ruling Zanu PF to deadly effect against ANZ for many years, before they unjustly shut down the Daily News and the Daily News On Sunday in September 2003.

Later on, after the two titles relaunched against the odds, newspaper readers will also remember, for example, how erratic former first lady claimed that former vice president Joice Mujuru had allegedly bought a stake in the iconic papers. Which was, of course, all false.

Still later on, vanquished G40 kingpins and their contemptible running dogs then pushed the lie that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his associates had bought the inimitable newspaper, which was again patently untrue.

Now, why a former “award-winning journalist” who further proudly describes himself as an “ardent political scientist, change champion and interim deputy secretary for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC)” would peddle all these false assertions escapes reason.

How is this helpful to him, the political organisation that he belongs to, his party bosses and the country? And is he, in fact, sign-posting to the local media industry, Zimbabweans and the world at large what press freedom will entail if his party gets into power?

We all hope not.

We at JMS understand that we are in another silly election season ahead of the crunch 2023 elections, and that desperate politicians will do and say anything to try and secure their meal as a result.

This is especially so given the terribly polarised political environment that Zimbabwe has found itself in for the past two decades. As the saying goes, truth is always the first casualty in a conflict situation.

For deceitful people, including a few flailing politicians and dodgy hacks-for-hire, what is right and wrong — and true or false — in this untenable climate depends entirely on who this helps or hurts, or what they get out of the situation, all to our society’s detriment.

The only saving grace about all this madness is that lies have extremely short legs, and time always exposes the folly of such people.

For the avoidance of doubt to all the Tamborinyokas of the world, let it sink in that we at JMS firmly believe that our nascent democracy can only thrive if the media are free and tell it like it is.

After all, what watchdog or developmental role can a compromised or foolishly partisan media play in the life of a nation such as ours?

In this regard, the various media offerings in our fast-growing Group will never be swayed from their truthful and impartial approach to news and issues of national importance. And neither will desperate haters ever define who we are. Let those with ears hear.

• Chris Goko is JMS Director and Group Deputy CEO