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Lawsuits against media lack merit — lawyer


Prominent Bulawayo lawyer, academic and political analyst Lawton Hikwa, has hit out at the bad relations between the private media and public figures, saying some of the lawsuits that had besieged the media of late were unwarranted.

Addressing journalists and members of the public at a Press Club function organized by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) in Bulawayo, Hikwa cited lawsuits by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and the First Lady, Grace Mugabe as lacking merit.

“Speaking as an academic and a political analyst and without trying to sound prejudicial, some of these lawsuits by public figures have no merit.

“However, I cannot guarantee the protection of journalists from them (public figures) until the reporters themselves have become highly ethical. Public figures have a right to privacy and a right to dignity.

“The DPM Khupe might argue that she was not given a chance to defend herself and on that basis can hope to win the case. And then we have stories that came out as a result of the WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing site that just came up, and a newspaper got sued by the First Lady.

“I want to say that a society that depends on litigation loses sight of democracy. Why should public figures feel more hurt than the ordinary people?” he said.

DPM Khupe is suing the Standard newspaper for $500 000 over a picture and story that alleged that she was pregnant.

The First Lady is suing the same newspaper for $15 million for a story picked from the WikiLeaks that alleged that she was involved in the smuggling of diamonds from Chiadzwa.

Qhubani Moyo, the newly-elected MDC’s organising secretary and member of the Joint Monitoring Committee (Jomic), who was Hikwa’s co-guest at the function, said his party was concerned at the level at which journalists were being sued.

“We believe in media freedom and that is why even if most newspapers have published downright lies about our party, we have not sued any journalist to date,” he said.

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