VETERAN journalist and Herald Senior Assistant Editor, George Chisoko, has been suspended with immediate effect for publishing “a wrong and alarmist” story.
Chisoko’s offence was to clear a report headlined “February inflation points to a dying economy” which was published by the Herald Business on March 16.
Even finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has conceded that formal industry is all but dead with the economy now dominated by vendors.
The opposition and commentators say the ruling Zanu PF party has failed to turn around the country’s economy since winning a majority (but disputed) mandate in the 2013 elections.
Little is heard these days of the government’s much-touted ZimAsset economic blueprint while unemployment remains north of 80 percent despite a pre-election promise by President Robert Mugabe to deliver more than two million new jobs.
Former finance minister Tendai Biti has since called for the establishment of an interim administration led by technocrats, saying Zanu PF was clueless on what to do with the failing economy.
But the government would not have expected the state media to back his allegation and Chisoko paid for the cheek.
His suspension was confirmed by Herald editor Caesar Zvayi.
Zvayi’s gripe was that the news article insinuated that the continued stay of the country’s inflation rate in the negative territory (-1.40 percent) was a sign that the economy was now in fully-fledged recession with the trend expected to continue for the better part of the year.
“To this end, I am suspending you for the next two weeks on full pay with immediate effect. During this period, March 17 to April 3, you are not allowed to enter company premises,” said Zvayi in his letter suspended his top aide.
Chisoko was accused of being negligent in his duty of clearing pages and told that he should have consulted his boss before passing the offending article.
“You were asked to clear the pages and should have immediately seen that such a headline required far more careful checking than you clearly gave,” said Zvayi.
“It is clear from the story that this headline cannot be justified under any reasonable interpretation of the facts.
“The story makes it clear that the growth rates will be reduced, not that the economy will contract. A growing economy cannot be described as ‘dying’ even if the growth rate is low.”
Zvayi continued: “Secondly, the main reason for the lower growth rate is the drought hitting agricultural production that is a natural disaster rather than a flaw in our economy or falling inflation rates.
“Falling mineral prices and the general low inflation worldwide were contributory causes. Even a rapid reading of the story would have allowed you see both the story and the headline were wrong.
“A journalist in your position, your grade and with your experience has to exercise better judgment. The need for accuracy overrides all other considerations.
“You failed to ensure that this requirement of accuracy was met in the story and the headline in question.”