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Speaker sues MBC

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Speakers of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, has dragged Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to court, over a story the broadcaster aired on April 15 2016.

The story was about Msowoya’s personal assistant, Patrick Kayira who, according to the report, was in police custody for breaking into Capital Hill offices and stealing a laptop belonging to one of the deputy directors in the Ministry of Finance.

The case, identified as civil cause no. 508 of 2016 is at the High Court of Malawi, Lilongwe District Registry.

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Following MBC’s failure to appear before an appointed mediator, Kiphet Kalasa of Messrs KR Kalasa & Company in August, the court, on December 12 2016, ordered MBC to pay Msowoya damages for among others defamation and embarrassment.

The execution of the judgement was, however, stayed on January 5 2017. And on January 17 the court set aside the judgement and ordered that the matter proceed for mediation.

The mediator is expected to hear the matter today. Lawyer Innocentia Ottober is representing Msowoya while lawyer Chance Gondwe is representing MBC.

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According to a statement of claim dated May 11 2016, compiled by Lloyds and Associates, MBC’s news item said Kayira “confessed to police interrogators he was targeting information that was meant for political masters who needed it for Parliament.”

According to the statement, the news item aired on both radio and television and published on MBC website, “ordinarily meant and were understood to mean that Msowoya is a crook, untrustworthy, dishonest, corrupt, a thief, a pervert and a criminal”.

In the statement, it is also argued that the publishing of the statements was actuated by malice or ill-will and was an unjustified attack on Msowoya’s reputation.

“As a result of the matters set out above, the plaintiff has suffered and continue[s] to suffer loss, damage and expense… And the plaintiff claims: damages for defamation; aggravated damages for defamation; punitive and/ or exemplary damages for defamation; damages for distress; damages for embarrassment and inconvenience; cost of the action,” reads the statement.

While admitting that the said news item was on MBC Television, Radio 1 and Radio 2 and published on MBC website, MBC in its defence, denies that “the alleged words meant or were understood to mean that Msowoya is a crook, untrustworthy, dishonest, corrupt a thief, a pervert and a criminal”.

In the document, the MBC denies all the claims Msowoya made.

“Save as herein before expressly admitted, the defendant denies each and every allegation contained in the plaintiff ’s statement of claim as if the same were herein set out and traversed seriatim. Wherefore the defendant prays to this honourable court that this action be dismissed with costs,” reads the document.

Although the matter was referred for mediation and a mediator in Messrs KR Kalasa & Company was identified, MBC did not attend the first mediation session set for August 12 2016.

According to a letter from Gondwe and Attorneys dated August 17 2016, in which it was asking for rescheduling of the date of mediation, MBC did not attend because it was served late on the mediation date.

However, on September 27 2016, Kalasa issued a certificate of non-compliance. The High Court on November 25 2016 struck out the defence, saying Msowoya was at liberty to enter judgment.

And on December 12 2016, the court ordered MBC to pay Msowoya damages for, among others, defamation, embarrassment, distress as well as cost of the action.

However, on January 5 2017, MBC successfully applied for a stay order of the judgment, pending determination of summons to set aside the order striking out the defence before the matter was eventually referred back to mediation on January 17 2017.

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