By James Phiri
The High Court in Blantyre slapped Blantyre Newspapers Limited (Times group) to pay compensation to Dr George Chaponda for defamatory articles its newspapers wrote against the former Agriculture minister during the Kaloswe maize scandal inquiry.
In his ruling, Judge Dingiswayo Madise also ordered the papers to apologise to Dr Chaponda and withdraw the articles and this should be published on the front pages of Times Newspapers within the next 10 days.
“No one should not injure the reputation of other people under the guise of fair comment and media freedom. I therefore, order the defendants who authored those articles if still in employment to withdraw the articles so cited and apologise sincerely to the claimant on the front pages of all the papers involved in this case within 10 days, “reads part of the judgement.
The judgment even stresses that the front page must not carry any other article apart from the apology ordered.
” The claimant is entitled to monetary damages and l order the registrar to access damages taking into account the apology that the defendant will make. It is not in the interest of this court to order huge damages which will end up bankrupting the defendants, “reads the judgement.
The judgement also reminded the media that responsible media freedom was necessary in a democracy as it calls on public servants to account and that must be protected by the law and the courts.
However, it states that the defendants must pay the cost of their action.
In his remarks, Chaponda was pleased with the rulling and hailed Judiciary for being independence.
“I am pleased that rule of law and justice has prevailed. The Court has shown independence of the Judiciary. While admitting that Journalists and Newspapers have the right to write on issues of interest to the public but have to respect the rights of others and not be used to tarnish the image of people, “said Chaponda.
The member of Parliament from Mulanje South West was also pleased that this case has cleared his image locally and internationally taking into account that he once worked for the UNHCR for twenty years.
” My international image was badly tarnished through their writings in the Newspapers,” he said