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Lady sues weekly for quoting WikiLeaks cable
December 22, 2010
Borders is outraged by the libel suit which President Robert Mugabe's
wife, Grace Mugabe, has brought against the independent weekly The
Standard for quoting a US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks accusing
her of involvement in diamond trafficking. She is demanding 15 million
US dollars in damages.
"The First Lady's libel suit aims to
undermine The Standard, which just reported information available
to everyone thanks to WikiLeaks," Reporters Without Borders
said. "It highlights the dangers of reporting compromising
allegations about senior officials or people linked to the government
in Zimbabwe. Grace Mugabe did not think twice about abusing her
position in an attempt to cripple this newspaper"
The press freedom organization added: "This
case is one more example of how the government is trying to strangle
critical news media financially. Suing The Standard for such an
exorbitant sum in damages is tantamount to forcing it to shut down."
"Once you are sued, you are forced to turn
to lawyers, which is very expensive" said Wilf Mbanga, the
publisher of another newspaper, The Zimbabwean. "Little by
little, this can bankrupt us," he added.
Filed on 15
December, the libel suit was prompted by a report about a 2008 cable
in which the then US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, told Washington
that Grace Mugabe and other members of the Zimbabwean elite were
earning substantial sums from trafficking in diamonds
from the Chiadzwa mine in the eastern region of Marange. He
estimated that the First Lady and her partners were earning "several
hundred thousand dollars a month" from the trade.
The libel suits brought by Grace Mugabe and by central
bank governor Gideon Gono, who is alleged to have printed additional
Zimbabwean banknotes to finance her purchases of diamonds from the
mine, come on the heels of other lawsuits that have been brought
against the weekly.
Obert Mpofu is suing the newspaper for 25 million US dollars over
a story about a property-buying spree. Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani
Khupe is suing it for 500,000 US dollars over an article that insinuated
she was pregnant
by a wealthy Zimbabwean businessman. The state-owned Zimbabwean
Broadcasting Corporation is suing it for 10 million US dollars over
a story saying its executives were getting rich while delaying the
payment of journalists' salaries.
The First Lady's
libel suit has exacerbated the already tense relations between the
authorities and The Standard, one of few independent newspapers
in a country that has been deprived of press freedom for many years.
Last month, its editor, Nevanji Madanhire, was detained for more
than 24 hours, while one of its reporters Nqobani Ndlovu, was held
for nine days
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