Nyarota’s lawsuit was exorbitant: AMH
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
Alpha Media Holdings said the US$1 million defamation lawsuit filed by journalist Geoffrey Nyarota against the publisher was grossly exorbitant and an abuse of the court process. The publisher of NewsDay, Standard, Zimbabwe Independent and Southern Eye, urged the High Court to throw away the matter with costs.
Nyarota sued AMH over a letter to the editor published in the company’s daily newspaper NewsDay in December 2012.
The letter, titled “Is NewsDay MDC-T mouthpiece?” stated that Nyarota was “the Gukurahundi brand manager”, words the journalist felt were highly defamatory.
Nyarota cited former Newsday editor Constantine Chimakure, AMH, Munn Marketing and Strand Multiprint Private Limited as defendants in the suit.
In a defendant’s plea filed at the High Court by AMH lawyers Gill Godlonton and Gerrans, the company argued that the US$1 million that was being claimed was unreasonable.
“The quantum of damages claimed in this matter is so grossly exorbitant as to constitute an abuse of the process of this Honourable Court. In consequence thereof, the plaintiff and the legal practitioners representing him should, regardless of the outcome of this matter, be ordered to pay costs of the matter on the scale as between legal practitioner and client,” read the plea.
AMH argued that the letter by a reader published in the Newsday was simply an opinion, which is covered under the defence of fair comment.
The company argued that the publication of the letter in question was in the public interest and therefore the lawsuit lacks merit.
It was argued that the opinion had already been expressed about Nyarota in other publications in Zimbabwe, but he only decided to file a lawsuit against AMH.
Part of the published article read: “Like Geoff Nyarota, you have ascribed yourselves the role of being brand managers for the MDC-T, as much as he was the Gukurahundi brand manager.”
Nyarota said the statement was malicious and defamatory.
Nyarota argued that his professional reputation was seriously injured and his character was damaged by the published article.
“By publishing the letter in question, NewsDay damaged the reputation, image and the illustrious name of the plaintiff,” read the summons.
“The article also exposed him to public condemnation, contempt, ridicule and hatred as well as the potential risk of retribution on an issue that is emotional, sensitive and ethically divisive.”