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MISA condemns suspension of "Informante" newspaper journalist

(MISA/IFEX) - The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) secretariat issued a statement on 21 June 2011 strongly condemning the decision by Trustco Group International to suspend Brigitte Weidlich, the "Informante" weekly tabloid newspaper's senior business journalist.

Trustco Group International, which owns "Informante", suspended Weidlich without pay for a story she wrote and featured in the paper's business supplement on 16 June, concerning the termination of an agreement between Trustco mobile and Econet Zimbabwe. Upon enquiry by MISA, the head of Trustco's human resources department, George N. Mbundu, formally confirmed Weidlich's suspension.

"We confirm that Ms. Weidlich was formally suspended from duty on Thursday, 16 June 2011, and in respect of an active investigation into her conduct pertaining to the publishing of a certain article in the 'Informante' on 16 June. The charges that are being investigated are, inter alia, misconduct and failing to adhere to editorial and company policies. The investigations are not yet complete and we shall inform you of the outcome of such investigation upon completion," said Mbundu.

As a media watchdog, MISA is seriously aggrieved by Trustco's actions against Weidlich, which represent a complete breach of the media's complaints procedure as stated in the professional code of ethics of the Namibian media.

MISA noted that there is nothing unethical about the story that Weidlich wrote. Trustco's reaction is thus outright censorship and a strike against media freedom. We therefore call upon Trustco to stop the harassment against Weidlich and completely withdraw her suspension. MISA also noted that suspending an employee without pay is in itself harsh and a contravention of ethical labour practices.

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