THE Daily Nation was merely exercising its freedom of expression and the press and did not in any way violate the freedom and reputation of Forum for Democratic Alternatives (FDA) president Ludwig Sondashi when it published a story headlined “Sondashi angers MMD” Lusaka High Court Judge Betty Mungómba has ruled.
In her judgment in a case in which Dr Sondashi had sued the Daily Nation for libel and defamation, Justice Mungómba ruled that the FDA leader had failed to prove his case on a balance of probability and that the allegation of defamation had not been borne out by evidence.
Judge Mungómba ruled that Dr Sondashi was a politician and as such a public figure who could not escape comments and was therefore a household name which had thrust him into public notoriety.
She ruled that the law of defamation was concerned primarily to maintain the proper balance and not to regulate the practice of journalism stating that the law was there to provide means to the defamed to achieve vindication.
Judge Mungómba said the story published by the Daily Nation did not in her view impute corruption on the part of Dr Sondashi as ‘the so called beans were not spilt’.
She ruled that the Daily Nation only alleged Dr Sondashi was fired Minister of Works and Supply apart from challenging him to state why he was fired.
Justice Mungómba said the Daily Nation Dr Sondashi complained of did not by any stretch of imagination allege or impute the FDA leader was fired on account of being corrupt.
“I find as a fact that Dr Sondashi (the plaintiff) is a politician and as such a public figure who cannot pass without comment. Dr Sondashi being a public figure, a fact he has strongly advanced, having served several years in successive governments, being inventor of the herbal medicine Sondashi Formula (SF2000), president of a political party as well as having run the recently held presidential election leaves me without a shred of doubt that he is a household name thrusting him into public notoriety. All in all, I find that Dr Sondashi has failed to prove his case on a balance of probability,” Justice Mungómba ruled.
She stated that she did not see how an allegation that somebody was fired from political office could have an effect on his standing in society and it was therefore incumbent upon Dr Sondashi to prove to her satisfaction on the balance of probability. Justice Mungómba stated that Education Minister Michael Kaingu did not imply that Dr Sondashi was corrupt by threatening that he was going to spill the beans if the FDA leader was not going to explain why he had been fired.
She ruled that Dr Sondashi failed to demonstrate to the court the words he complained about that they were a defamatory intonation and that he had failed to prove that the statement by Dr Kaingu had the ability to transmit falsehood.