Judegment Day At The High Court London

Judegment Day At The High Court London
Mengi v Hermitage: Libel Claim Successfully Defended

Friday, 24 July 2009



Envoy calls for co-operation in agriculture and the media

In an interview with Palestinian Ambassador to Tanzania Dr Nasri Abu Jaish in IPPMedia's The Guardian (27th July 2009) Reginald Mengi talked of the importance of agriculture, investment and media in Tanzania, Mengi stated that ‘……it was important for the two countries to co-operate in agriculture as the government had already prioritised it through its slogan ‘Agriculture First’.

In highlighting the suitability of Tanzania for agricultural investment to the Palestinian Ambassador Mengi commented ‘…….…..it was important for the two countries to co-operate in agriculture as the government had already prioritised it through its slogan ‘Agriculture First’. Mengi emphasised the importance that IPP media would play in this respect stating that a news sharing strategy between the two countries ‘…….was geared at enabling the people from both countries to get a true picture of the situation in both Tanzania and Palestine…’ . Mengi stated, ‘…. sometimes the Western media exaggerated issues when reporting about Africa, thus not portraying the true image of Tanzania and Africa as a whole…’ and he urged the Ambassador to promote investment in agriculture in Tanzania.

Reginald Mengi’s actual commitment to agriculture and investment in Tanzania shows quite a different story when you look at his personal conduct and that of IPP media in relation to the Silverdale Case in Tanzania as the following article outlines.
''IPP Media is a powerful Group of Newspaper, Television and Radio companies, being Tanzania's premiere information provider. As Chief Executive officer, Reginald Mengi is ultimately accountable for the journalistic practices of the group.Trumpeting daily his commitment to overcoming corruption in Tanzania and the role investigative journalism should play in this respect, Mengi stated in IPP Media’s publication the Guardian newspaper on 20th March 2007, that ‘the fight against corruption needs collaboration among editor’s journalists and media …….to unearth corruption and scandals in the government and private sectors……as investigative journalism promotes good governance, transparency and accountability…’
Addressing the Tanzanian Christian Union of the Press in September 2006, Mengi stated that ‘…..in order to win the war against corruption, the media must distance itself from corruption……to build and sustain the credibility and integrity of the media, media houses should fight against corruption in their newspapers’.Good investigative journalism requires compliance with the laws of defamation particularly, the law of Libel given it is the writer, editor and publisher of ‘published material’ that is held to account in this respect.
In May 2004, Benjamin Mengi, Reginald Mengi’s brother, assigned the lease to Silverdale & Mbono Farms (Hai District) to British investor Stewart Middleton in full compliance with the laws of Tanzania. In May 2005, Mengi demanded the lease back on the basis that he had not been paid in full despite, signing a full receipt. When Mr. Middleton refused, he and his Tanzanian staff have been subjected to violence, harassment, imprisonment and intimidation based on accusations levelled by Benjamin Mengi and his wife Millie Mengi.An objective examination of IPP Media’s ‘investigative’ and ‘accountable’ journalism in respect of the accusations reveal a worrying story in relation to IPP Media's conduct.On 22nd November 2005, the Guardian and Nipashe newspapers accused Mr. Middleton of issuing a dud cheque to Benjamin Mengi for $7,000 and that he and his Tanzanian Technical Manager had forged the lease to Silverdale & Mbono Farms.
There is no offence of issuing a ‘bogus’ cheque under the Penal Code of Tanzania, no charge sheet was produced in court, and no formal arrest had been made of the men who were denied legal representation. Investigative journalism would have established and revealed this fact. It did not. Further, IPP Media did not report the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew all charges against the men when he had been apprised of the facts of the complaint.On 19th January 2006, the Guardian and Nipashe Newspapers accused Mr. Middleton of stealing articles of equipment from Silverdale & Mbono Farms and destroying structures and uprooting coffee trees. It repeated again (after all charges had been dropped by the DPP) the fact that Mr. Middleton was accused of issuing a fake cheque to Benjamin Mengi and of forging the lease to Silverdale & Mbono Farms. It also stated that Benjamin Mengi had taken possession of Silverdale & Mbono Farms.
The publications did not state, that Mr. Mengi’s application to have the investor evicted from the farms was dismissed by the High Court Moshi (Lands Division) by Hon. Kileo or that no criminal charges were pending against the investor or his staff (Land Case 1. 2006).On 24th May 2006, the Guardian accused Mr. Middleton of preventing a court entourage onto his home Silverdale Farm, stating that the purpose of the visit was to allow doctors to exhume bodies of animals kept on the farm by Mrs Millie Mengi.
Mrs. Millie Mengi has issued a civil plaint against Mr. Middleton accusing him of killing her animals kept unlawfully on Silverdale Farm and of forging a quarantine order issued by Zonal Veterinary Officer Dr. Swai in March 2006 who declared the animals to be suffering from Foot & Mouth Disease and imposed a Quarantine order on the animals.The publication did not state the fact that Mr. Middleton was not present on the farm when the entourage led by Mengi attended, that the court order was issued before the hearing for the order and that Mrs. Mengi had no lawful right to keep animals on the farm and could remove them at any time she wished. On 20th July 2006, Mr. Middleton was once again arrested on allegations brought against him by Mrs. Millie Mengi. This time he was accused of breaching a civil court order. Mr. Middleton was brought before the court, refused bail and sent to Karanga Prison by Moshi Resident Magistrate, Temu and held in a prison cage outside the High Court in Moshi. IPP Media reported the arrest and imprisonment the following day.
The Daily News reported on July 26th, 2006, that the High Court in Moshi ordered the immediate release of Mr. Middleton ruling that there was no evidence to support his arrest. IPP Media publications did not report these facts. On 3rd February 2007, the Guardian newspaper accused four members of Mr. Middleton’s staff of attacking one Salim Habib, an employee of Benjamin Mengi with Pangas on Silverdale Farm without reason. The publication further stated that Mr. Middleton had stood by and watched the assault. This information was also broadcast on IPP Media Radio 1 Network. IPP Media newspaper the Nipashe carried a further article some days later stating that Mr. Middleton’s staff were now ‘on the run’ having absconded from bail. As a matter of public record, this was a blatant lie. As a matter of public record, no member of Mr. Middleton’s staff had been arrested however, Salim Habib Mengi’s cattle manager had been arrested and charged with Malicious Damage by driving forty head of adult cattle belonging to Mrs Millie Mengi onto a two hectare field of commercial maize on Silverdale Farm destroying crops and causing $20,000 of damage. IPP Media did not report this.On 11th April 2007, the Guardian and Nipashe newspapers reported that Mr. Middleton and his wife had been ordered to pay 90m/-for defamation, based on comments accredited to them in the Daily News on June 2006.
One would think, that being fully apprised of the laws of Libel that IPP Media would know, that in cases of Libel, only the writer, printer and publisher of the material could be sued. As such, the case and the judgment were completely outside of the courts powers. IPP media did not print this or the fact that the investor’s lawyers Moshi advocate Westgate Lumambo had deliberately failed to file a defence in the case, which was heard without Mr. Middleton being present in court.The publications stated Mr. Middleton had accused Benjamin Mengi of bribery and corruption. In fact, the person accredited with these remarks was Dr. Juma Ngasongwa Minister for Empowerment, Investment& Planning. IPP Media did not state this or the fact that he had not been sued.Instead of demonstrating a commitment to investigative journalism with a commitment to fighting corruption and good governance, the above media practice amounts to nothing short of a cowardly, deliberately inaccurate and abusive attack on the British investors, which appears to be nothing short of journalistic terrorism.
All the publications are couched in a language of suspicion and unqualified accusations of guilt against Mr. Middleton and his staff. No right of reply was ever given and all viciously attack Mr. Middleton’s commercial interest and reputation, not only in Tanzania but worldwide given the articles were published on the Internet.To conclude, Editors and Journalists in Tanzania, are urged to consider, whether or not, in Mr. Middleton’s case, IPP Media has engaged in accountable, investigative journalism in a manner that promotes good governance and transparency and fights the war against corruption and abuse power. The answer to that question, should guide them in their decision as to whether of not, (as Reginald Mengi suggests they should) they wish to collaborate with IPP Media in setting a national agenda on fighting corruption and, will shape the future of journalist credibility and practice in Tanzania for years to come!''

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