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Tasila, Lubinda, Kapata sue News Diggers over EIA mukula report

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu’s daughter, Tasila, lands minister Jean Kapata and her justice counterpart Given Lubinda have sued News Diggers Media Limited, its editor Mukosha Funga and the Environmental Investigation Agency for defamation for publishing reports that they are allegedly involved in the illegal sale of mukula tree.

Tasila, Kapata and Lubinda want an interim and permanent injunction restraining News Diggers and Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) from publishing similar libelous and malicious articles and opinions relating to them pending determination of the matter.

The three are also seeking damages for libel and slander and punitive and exemplary damages with interest from the defendants.

According to their statement of claim Tasila, Kapata and Lubinda said that on December 6, 2019, the News Diggers newspaper in its online publication and print newspaper carried a front page headline story entitled “Lungu, Tasila in Mukula cartel” authored by Funga.

The trio stated that the article published by News Diggers newspaper alleged that they were part of the Mukuka cartel engaged in the illegal harvesting and trade of the rosewood.

“The article alleged that an American based organisation called EIA released a report into smuggling of mukula logs in Zambia which has implicated President Edgar Lungu, his daughter Tasila, Kapata and a traditional leader, among other influential figures,” reads the statement of claim.

The complainants contended that the News Diggers article’s mostly cited EIA’s publication as its source for the article complained of.

Tasila, Kapata and Lubinda claimed that they were not contacted by Funga or the newspaper and its agents to verify or fact check the story prior to its “sensational publication”.

The trio said that the report by EIA was circulated globally without the organisation giving them an opportunity to give their side of the story.

Tasila, Kapata and Lubinda stated that Mukosha and News Diggers published libelous opinions without verifying facts.

“Consequently in the eyes of the ordinary member of the public, the plaintiffs have suffered ridicule, odium, contempt and embarrassment generally as the articles, ‘opinions’ and publication complained of meant and were understood to mean that they were corrupt, do not care about poor Zambians, they are thieves, mortally bankrupt, not fit to hold public office, and selfish, among others,” the trio stated.

The complainants claimed that the publication by the defendants was false and highly malicious.

Tasila, Kapata and Lubinda added that the non-verification of facts, coupled with criminal tagging and the language used in the articles propelled them beyond fair comment, and that freedom of the press does not entail discarding media or journalism ethics, scandalising and humiliating other people.

The three further contended that their characters have been injured and all efforts to resolve the issues have failed and are now claiming damages for libel.

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