Guest Post: Bruised but not broken by @peshy82

Posted on 03/05/2013

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As a journalism intern at the now defunct Eastern Star 2003 my mentor the late Farai Makotsi taught me that without guts I would never be a distinguished journalist.

Armed with this “No Guts No Glory” lesson, I setout to be an investigative journalist. By 2011 I was senior reporter at The Standard newspaper, a daily owned by Alpha Media Holdings. In May that year I received a tip that a senior Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe official was involved in diamond smuggling.

My pursuit of this story would mark the start of harassment, threats, persecution, insults, sacking by my employer and eventually having to flee my home country. It demonstrated the incredible power and control certain individuals, known locally as the “untouchables”, have in almost every newsroom in Zimbabwe, be it public or private media.

The senior government official firstly accused me of demanding a bribe and claimed he had the evidence on tape. This false charge was backed by one of my line editors. I was hauled before a disciplinary hearing which, through the efforts of renowned lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, was dismissed as illegal because the company had not first instituted an investigation to establish whether or not I had a case to answer.

As this investigation took place, some of my superiors would drop discreet hints that if I apologised, the official would make the allegations against me disappear. Walking home with a colleague one evening, we saw the official in his white Range Rover in the company of an Alpha Media Holdings editor. They must have seen us too because a few seconds later the official phoned and threatened me. He illegally obtained my telephone records and began calling some of my sources. It left me exposed.

I was eventually exonerated for any wrong doing by the internal investigation. I thought that would be the end of my ordeal but I was arrested the next month. The arrest followed a story I wrote that Jameson Timba, a Minister of State in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office, had been arrested but the police were denying his arrest. I was interrogated for several hours. They asked about my sources, my friends and where I went and what I did in my free time. The police confiscated my phone and up to now they haven’t returned it.

Together with the Standard Editor Nevanji Madanhire,and the company representative Loud Ramakgapola, we were charged with criminal defamation. The case is still pending in the courts.

Meanwhile, harassment from the senior government official started all over again. For two weeks I was subjected to insults and accusations in the form of full page adverts in the newspapers. I was summoned to the CEO’s office and told to resign immediately. When I protested I was threatened with another hearing. This time, I was promised, I would be found guilty.   And if I took the company to the Labour Court they threatened to withdraw payment of my legal bills on the criminal defamation case. I had no choice but to resign. The company wrote a “glowing” letter saying we had parted ways amicably.

Disappointed and betrayed by everything journalism stood for, I could not get myself to write for over six months. When I finally got over my misery, I realised that getting a job in Zimbabwe was not going to be easy. True to his threats, the senior government made sure that no editor would ever offer me a job. So I left the country for Namibia where I am working for a weekly paper. However, Zimbabwe is my home and one day I will return and practise journalism again. They only bruised me but never broke me and I hope media freedom will one day be a reality.

By Patience Nyangove

In this blog for World Press Freedom Day 2013, journalist Patience Nyangove shares how she was harassed, barred from future employment and chased out of Zimbabwe due to the stories she was investigating.

Source: –  Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa

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