Judge Chali upholds press freedom

LUSAKA High Court Judge in-charge Isaac Chali has dismissed an application by Kabwata Patriotic Front (PF) Member of Parliament Given Lubinda seeking an injunction to restrain the Daily Nation Newspaper from publishing stories about him and has described his reasons for his action as speculative and remote.

Judge Chali has in refusing to grant Mr Lubinda an injunction ruled that to be asked to take away the right to freedom of expression would be to judge the defence preemptorily.

Lawyers representing the Daily Nation Marshal Muchende of Dindi &Company argued that Mr Lubinda’s application for an injunction was seriously wanting on merit because the article complained about was an accurate report of the response of the United Party for National Development (UPND) to a statement attributed to him (Lubinda) when was quoted playing down the opposition political parties in Zambia.

Lawyer Muchende in the submissions objecting the granting of the injunction argued that there was nothing atrocious in the article complained for the court to infer that there were serious questions in the hearing.

Judge Chili in his ruling said Mr Lubinda’s right to relief was not clear and that his claims would only be clear after trial if he was going to succeed in demolishing the defence pleaded.

Mr Lubinda has sued the Daily Nation for libel and is claiming damages after the newspaper published a story headlined UPND writes off Lubinda in which the opposition political party claimed the Kabwata MP was not a factor in the current political dispensation because he had allegedly exhibited high levels of political paranoia following his survival from being expelled from the ruling party.

Judge Chali in deciding whether or not to grant an injunction, It was borne in his mind that every person’s right to freedom of expression was particularly enshrined in the Constitution of Zambia.

The Lusaka High Court Judge in-charge ruled that it was trite that the object of an injunction was to protect the plaintiff against injury by violation of his rights for which he could not be adequately compensated in damages recoverable in the action if the uncertainty were resolved in his favour at trial.

Judge Chali said Mr Lubinda could be compensated in damages if he could succeed in the action at the trial adding that the Kabwata Parliamentarian had not shown that the second defendant Edmond Lifwekelo was a man of straw as not to be able to pay such damages as may be awarded against it.

“The plaintiff did not show by evidence that the defendants intended to repeat or publish the same or similar alleged defamatory statements or comments of him. The fear in my view appeared speculating and remote. I came to the conclusion that there was no immediate possibility of injury to the plaintiff fir which he required protection of the court by an order of injunction. For the reasons given, the plaintiff’s application for an interim injunction is refused and is accordingly dismissed,” Judge Chali ruled.