Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has sued the public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) for K200 million for alleged defamation.
HRDC was allegedly labelled as a terrorist group in one of MBC news bulletin following Thursday’s nationwide demonstrations.
Lawyer for HRDC, Wesley Mwafulirwa, said in an interview that the letter of claim, dated January 17 2020, was dispatched yesterday morning to MBC headquarters in Blantyre.
But MBC director general Aubrey Sumbuleta, in an interview yesterday, said there was no reaction to the lawsuit as the institution was yet to receive the letter of claim.
HRDC organised nationwide demonstrations on Thursday and the radio station, in its evening news bulletin, allegedly described HRDC in Chichewa as ‘bungwe lazawuchifwamba’.
The lawyer said in its literal sense, the statement meant ‘HRDC is a terrorist organisation’.
“Our client notes and is dismayed by the fact this description was also once made by the President of this country and broadcast by your institution.
“Any reasonable person would not want to associate with our client given the connotations associated with terrorism.
commencing within 48 hours from [receipt of the letter] as well as publish on its website and social media networks the said apology and retraction. a retraction and an apology
“Be advised that our instructions are to commence legal proceedings against your institution as well as against…if the above demands are not met or if we do not hear from you on or before January 27 2020,” Mwafulirwa writes.
The demonstrations, which government has always condemned, were organised by HRDC to force authorities do something on reports that police officers sexually abused women and girls in Msundwe, Lilongwe following violent anti-Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah protests in which a police officer was killed.
The Thursday demonstrations were also aimed at forcing Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Reyneck Matemba to name individuals who attempted to bribe High Court judges handling the electoral case in which Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and UTM’s Saulos Chilima want results of the May 21 presidential election nullified.
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda reported to ACB some yet-to-be known individuals for allegedly attempting to bribe the judges. Matemba has refused to disclose their names on the basis that investigations are still underway.