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This is an appeal against the judgment of the High Court of Lusaka dated 15 February 2018. The action in the High Court was a claim for damages and an apology for libel. In his judgment, the learned trial judge found for the plaintiff (the “Respondent”) and awarded her the sum of ZMW 20,000 as damages for defamation. The details of the alleged libel concern a television news report that was aired by the Appellant on its prime time news at 18:30 hours with the caption “Katanga involved in a punch up with subordinate Assistant Superintendent Lukonde”.
The Appellant being dissatisfied with the decision of the High Court, appealed.
1. It is trite law that libel refers to defamatory statements made in permanent form such as writings, pictures, or radio and television broadcasts. Libel is actionable in tort without proof that its publication has caused special damage to the person. Since libel is actionable per se, damage is presumed and there is no requirement for proof of actual damage.
2. An adequate apology, no matter that it is rendered late, has the effect of extenuating the seriousness of the defamation and therefore of the quantum of damages. Decision in Kalonga and Another v Chisamanga and Another (1988-1989) ZR 52 (SC) followed.
3. Libel is actionable per se, and injury to reputation is presumed. However, to prove defamation, the Court must be satisfied that;
3.1 the statement must be defamatory;
3.2 the statement must refer to the claimant, viz, identify him/her;
3.3 the statement must be published, that is, communicated to at least one person other than the claimant.
4. The publication in this matter satisfied all the three elements and the Respondent was indeed defamed.