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NewsHawks freezes exclusive Zimbabwe military story

20 Feb 2024 at 15:02hrs | Views
The NewsHawks, which has further delayed publication this week due to circumstances beyond its control, will not publish follow-up stories on the issue of three Zimbabwean army generals forced out due to corruption issues after subtle threats and direct pressure from state security agents.

This has happened before.

Since last week, the military has held several meetings to deal with the exclusive coverage of the story, and ended up issuing a statement, saying the matter is currently under investigation, while it is sub judice (suggesting a court martial process underway - which indicates its gravity).

After that The NewsHawks was informed by top Defence House impeccable sources the issue has raised serious concerns and alerts in terms of the gravity of the substance and sourcing. Security is investigating the journalists who covered the story: the bottom line is the military wants to know sources of the story.

As a result, The NewsHawks journalists have now been put under surveillance, especially News Editor Owen Gagare, in a move which has a chilling effect on media freedom and journalism practice.

In order to protect the safety and wellbeing of reporters, The NewsHawks has now removed its reporters from the story with immediate effect and will not carry follow-ups, including the ones already processed for this week.

The stories will be pulled out of the latest edition coming out later today indefinitely.

Usually, The NewsHawks would dig in and persist undeterred, but given the clear and present danger to the safety of its  reporters, the story has to be frozen.

So it has been put on ice indefinitely.

As we say in journalism, in the final analysis there is no story worth dying for!

However, courage in journalism is refusal to be silenced.

We are not being silenced, but forced to make some strategic decisions or choices to secure the safety of our reporters.

Self-censorship and silence are not an option in investigative journalism, yet necessary if only to ensure journalists' safety and wellbeing, at least for the time being.

This has happened before as pointed out at the top and we handled the situation like this.

Previously, a NewsHawks senior journalist Bernard Mpofu was forced out of his stories and his home by state security agents who hunted him down to hound him out of the security beat of coverage.

He had written several stories, but what particularly invited problems for NewsHawks and him was President Emmerson Mnangagwa's helicopter crash exclusive story in August 2021.

Mpofu was run out of town - literally - over the story and permanently left his home, amid contemplation to leave the country.

However, NewsHawks was forced to drop the story to secure his safety.

Unfortunately, his sources were tracked down and removed from their posts amid internal punishment.

In January 2021, NewsHawks reported that Mnangagwa, who was on his annual leave at a time when Zimbabwe was battling Covid-19, was forced to abandon a trip to his Sherwood Farm in Kwekwe after several security personnel and a farm manager tested positive of Covid-19.

In August 2021, NewsHawks reported Mnangagwa's presidential helicopter was forced into an emergency landing over 60 kilometres southwest of Harare due to a technical failure.

A follow-up story in September 2021 indicated that Mnangagwa had quickly moved to beef up his motorcade by bringing in Air Force of Zimbabwe signallers to reinforce his communication system whenever he flew out.

In the air force, a signaller, is a person trained to communicate between aircraft, its base and units in the area of operation, by means of radio or other digital communications.

These may well appear to be harmless to ordinary readers, but not so to state security structures.

The NewsHawks has covered many such exclusive stories which ruffle the feathers of authorities and security services, not because of an intention to become an incendiary media platform, but out of a desire to hold public officials to account for the betterment of the nation.

The NewsHawks project is anchored on investigative and accountability journalism.

This is about holding power in its various manifestations to account in the public interest.

Put differently, accountability or watchdog journalism is a type of reporting that focuses on holding people in positions of power, including government officials, corporate executives and civil society, accountable for their actions and decisions.

It exposes betrayal of public trust, abuse of power and corruption, among other things.

Investigative reporting thrives on digging deeper into a story to uncover information that may not be readily available or that those in power may not want to be made public.

Compared to regular reporting which is about telling a story covering the basics and on the surface of it, accountability journalism specifically focuses on examining and exposing wrongdoing or malfeasance, rather than just reporting on current events or providing information to the public.

Given this precarious situation, The NewsHawks will be rather  candid on its coverage, yet even more determined to continue with investigative reporting despite the current strategic retreat to secure the safety of its reporters.

Truth always comes out in the end, no matter how hard anyone tries to hide it or stop it.

In journalism, the pursuit of truth is often a solitary and thankless job, fraught with obstacles, resistance and danger; clear and present danger in this case.

Yet it is true that the truth will always come out in the end. It might take time, and they may try to cover it up, but eventually it will inevitably be revealed.

Source - NewsHawks Editor
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