ZimpapersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ CEO has confessed that all state journalists, particularly editors, are under surveillance and that government hacks into their computers and private email accounts, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.
Justin Mutasa made these revelations during a labour hearing involving Umthunywa newspaperÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s former editor Bheki Ncube who is fighting against his dismissal.
Mutasa says hacking and surveillance is undertaken as a matter of policy, to ascertain if the editors, journalists and other employees are loyal to the Zanu-PF administration.
Ncube says that his dismissal is null and void because the state used illegal evidence hacked from his work computer and private emails to fire him.
Zimpapers argues that it is the publisherÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s right to hack into the editorsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ computers because the computers are company property and the CEO has a right to know what his subordinates are doing.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMutasa contests that his team of investigators had broken into the journalistÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s home searching for information but the information obtained had been stored in a ZimpapersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ computer,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â reads part of the minutes of the hearing.
NcubeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s lawyer is arguing that the surveillance was carried out in violation of the Interception of Communication Act as this was done without the ownerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s consent or a warrant.
Zimpapers accuse Ncube of writing private emails in which he insulted President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF over the way they are running the country.
The government is also using private email correspondences as evidence that Ncube moonlighted for foreign-based publications deemed to be hostile to government.
Under NcubeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s editorship, the Bulawayo-based vernacular Ndebele paper was critical of Mugabe and the Zanu PF government.
Zimpapers has not published the tabloid for about a month now and media analysts fear that it could be closed down by government just like other papers critical of Mugabe.
But the publishing group says the paperÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s absence is purely due to viability problems. Mutasa admitted at the ongoing hearing that he personally approved the hacking of NcubeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s and all Zimpapers editorsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ private emails.
Tom Ndovi, the groupÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s information technology manager, also told the inquiry that he accessed all the ZimpapersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ editorsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ private email boxes using software called password cracker. He said he gave Mutasa the emails to action.
The CEO also revealed to the hearing that it was government, not Zimpapers, who directly made editorial appointments at the public newspapers through individual information ministers.
Mutasa said it is the individual minister and not Zimpapers who set the editorial policies and guidelines.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œEvery incoming minister calls all the editors, gives them the editorial thrust and expounds to them what he expects from them. Editors must comply,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Mutasa during the hearing.