Honourable Matsunga raised the following issues in her complaint:
- That the story was compiled while she was away from Harare attending a conference in Kariba and as a result she requested the reporter in question to hold the story until her return so that she could properly respond given the complexity of the matter involved (Gender-based Violence)
She also stated that due to the contested nature of the assault case being reported on, she further advised the reporter to corroborate facts on the matter with police and court records so as to present a balanced version in the event that publication of the story could not be delayed. She said that this was not reflected in the article published by H-Metro, arguing that the inadequate research by the
- reporter resulted in the oversimplification and trivialisation of a complex, domestic violence matter
- She was also concerned that the headline of the story suggested a violent and intemperate woman but noted that, in contrast the pictures used did not depict, substantiate or provide any evidence of the alleged violence. She said that only one of the pictures used depicted a public scene in Parliament, otherwise the rest were private, family pictures.
- She wondered whether H-Metro “reporters” might have been compromised to write and publish the story in a hurry despite her plea to be given enough time to respond properly.
- She also disputed that the alleged altercation with her estranged lover occurred at a beer hall as reported in the article, saying they met at the local community shops.
- Honourable Matsunga also says that although she is quoted in the story, the dominant and most prominent voice is that of her estranged lover making allegations against her.
- She further states that she contacted the reporter upon her return to pursue the matter but there was no co-operation from the journalist
- The complainant therefore feels that the story was intended to tarnish her image and standing as a Member of Parliament, her political career and lower her standing in the community.
The complainant requested audience with the editor and a right of reply as relief for the grievance.
The complaint was resolved through engagement and dialogue with H-Metro.
H-Metro Deputy Editor Charles Mushinga in his response to the issues clarified that there was no intention of malice on the part of the newspaper against Honourable Matsunga. He said the story was an attempt by the newspaper to highlight social ills and they were therefore willing to grant her an opportunity to air her side of story. Mr. Mushinga also indicated that while there was no undertaking on the part of the newspaper to delay publication of the article, the story was eventually published a few days later than initially planned.
He said the story was prominently covered because the MP was a high profile figure. Mr. Mushinga said this also explained “the rush to break the story”.
H-Metro granted Honourable Matsunga an opportunity to set the record straight. She gave her side of the story, and also discussed the broader phenomenon of domestic violence and its impact on women. H-Metro published this story as a right of reply on 13 October 2017.
* This complaint was facilitated and resolved as part of an ongoing collaboration between the VMCZ and Gender and Media Connect (GMC) to promote a gender-sensitive media, promoting women’s participation in the complaints mechanism and strengthening media accountability in Zimbabwe*