This case dealt with an employee of Muvi TV Limited who was accused of defiling an under-age girl whom he had had offered accommodation to. He was videoed being arrested by a police officer and the news read as follows “Journalist defiled a 13-year old girl”. This news story was repeated on several subsequent news broadcasts by Muvi TV.
This story was published before any conviction was made in criminal proceedings. A medical report revealed that the girl had not been defiled and this was available before the story was released. However, despite the medical report being available, before the news, Muvi TV chose not to disclose this the result He was subsequently acquitted but pursued a claim for defamation.
The Supreme Court confirmed that the basic test that is employed in establishing whether a statement is defamatory or not is that of examining how an ordinary, right-thinking person of the society generally would respond to the statement, in this case, an ordinary reasonable TV viewer in Zambia. Based on the evidence, the Supreme Court agreed that the publication as understood by the ordinary right-thinking TV viewer and listener were defamatory of the employee, on that they cast aspersions of his character, lowered him in the estimation of ordinary right-thinking persons in society generally, particularly given that he had not been convicted, yet or at all but created the impression that he had been or the police had cogent evidence against him.
The defence of truth or justification which negates a finding of defamation was rejected because Muvi TV knew the truth as revealed by the medical report but still run an untrue story that defamed their employee’s character. The Supreme Court, in a judgment delivered by Malila JS (as he was then) guided that the fact that Muvi TV failed to get the employee an opportunity to give his side of the story or reveal the results of the medical examination pointed adversely to their motive to act malicious towards their employee. This coupled with the filming of the video was targeted towards embarrassing him. On this basis, Muvi TV could not claim the defence of truth or justification.
"Moving Unit Video Television (t/a Muvi Tv Limited) v. Francis Mwiinga Maingaila SCZ Selected Judgment No. 18 of 2019,"
SAIPAR Case Review: Vol. 5:
1, Article 18.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/scr/vol5/iss1/18