THE Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has been called upon to rein in errant news publications that have lately been publishing falsehoods disguised as news.
At the centre of the latest blizzard of falsehoods are promises of financial rewards to newspapers and journalists who write anti-Chinese stories by some Western embassies with the Newshawks publication standing accused of leading the falsehoods crusade.
Recently, a Chinese company Tian Ze Tobacco (PVT) Ltd company dragged Newshawks to the ZMC, the statutory media regulatory body, asking it to stop the falsehoods emanating from the news organisation.
Citing the factual errors replete in the story, the Tian Ze Tobacco Company accused Newshawks of failing to stick to elementary journalism practices such as fact-proofing.
Tian Ze said the article that appeared in the Newshawks e-paper titled “Contract tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe drowning in debt” borders on defamation.
“The article is centred on misrepresentation and falsehoods which borders on defamation. In the opening paragraph the article alleges that ‘When John Ruvanga started growing tobacco for the Zimbabwean subsidiary of China’s state cigarette company in 2014 . . . he was given seeds, fertilizer, chemicals, and training upfront’. The Complainant argues that this is a gross misrepresentation of facts since Tian Ze Tobacco (Pvt) never contracted a farmer by the name John Ruvanga,” reads the complaint letter from Tian Ze Tobacco (Pvt) Ltd.
According to Tian Ze Tobacco (Pvt) Ltd, through its lawyers, the whole article by Newshawks is littered with falsehoods that are harmful to its reputation, as the company does not contract small scale farmers nor was it ever dragged to court by the said Mr Ruvanga.
Apart from that, the company also pours water on the claims by the Newshawks that it attached a tractor owned by Mr Ruvanga.
“Complaint argues that in this respect, the authors of the article and the newspaper had an agenda to smear Tian Ze and China Tobacco International and tarnish its image by publishing falsehoods and defamatory statements. “The media practitioners did not adhere to journalistic principles and ethics of factual reporting thereby causing malicious injury to the company’s reputation.”
Seeking redress from ZMC, Tian Ze Tobacco (Pvt) Ltd said the publication must carry a retraction or offer an apology, “as well as undertaking that such deliberate misrepresentation will not recur in future. Or the Commission makes such order or recommendations in this matter as it considers appropriate in the circumstances for the redress of the violation,” reads the letter in part.
Yesterday, ZMC chief executive officer Dr Tafataona Mahoso said the Commission has responded to the complaint raised by Tian Ze.