On 21st February 2014 at a luncheon in Dar es Salaam to congratulate two journalists recently set free by Tanzania’s Kisutu Magistrate’s Court in a case of sedition, IPP Media owner Reginald Mengi told editors and journalists from various media organizations that they should name corrupt individuals stating “If you know someone who is corrupt, regardless of what titles she or he has, just mention the name; don’t hide it”http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/?l=65080
This was an extraordinary statement by Reginald Mengi given he was found to be guilty of corruption in the UK High Court in 2013. In 2010, Reginald Mengi sued British Lawyer Sarah Hermitage, in respect of five postings on her Silverdale Farm blog and two emails she had sent, which Mr Mengi claimed to be false and defamatory of him.
During the trial, the Court heard unchallenged evidence from Sarah Hermitage and her husband, Stewart Middleton, as to how they were by threats, intimidation and corruption driven from Tanzania and forced to abandon the investment they had made in their farm, Silverdale, of which Reginald Mengi’s younger brother, Benjamin, then took possession. The Court was told that a major factor in the ordeal they suffered was the hostile and defamatory coverage their case received from the IPP-owned English language Guardian and the Swahili Nipashe newspapers. Reginald Mengi, in the course of his evidence, repeatedly stated that he “was not responsible, not accountable and not answerable” for the editorial content of IPP publications.
In giving Judgment, Mr Justice Bean ruled:
“I find that the campaign in the Guardian and Nipashe facilitated Benjamin’s corruption of local officials and intimidation of the Middletons and thus helped Benjamin to destroy their investments and grab their properties; and that Mr [Reginald] Mengi, since he either encouraged or knowingly permitted the
campaign, was in that sense complicit in Benjamin’s corruption and intimidation. The allegation is thus substantially true, and justified at common law.”
Following the handing down of the Judgment, Sarah Hermitage said :
“I set up my Silverdale Farm blog in 2009 to document our horrific experience in Tanzania, and to expose as a warning for others the corruption we encountered and our helplessness with no protection from the local Courts and officials. As the Judge has found, my response to the campaign waged against us in IPP publications was reasonable, proportionate, relevant and without malice. To find myself then sued for libel in my own country, facing a claim of legal costs of £300,000 from Mr Mengi before the proceedings had even started, was itself frightening and oppressive. I am relieved that, with the support of my legal team who were prepared to risk getting paid nothing at all under a “no win, no fee” agreement, justice has in the end prevailed in this case. I also must thank the brave and honest Tanzanian journalists who either openly or privately assisted in the preparation of our defence. I will continue to use my blog, my voice, to do all I can to fight against the corruption I have seen first hand in Tanzania, not least in the hope that it may in the end help the very good people, not least our loyal staff, who have stood by us throughout”
After handing down judgment Mr Justice Bean ordered that Reginald Mengi should pay the defence costs at the higher “indemnity” rate. In reaching this decision, the factors cited by the Judge included that Counsel for Sarah Hermitage had “rightly described the litigation as “oppressive”, that “enormous costs had been thrown at the case from the beginning, indeed before the issue of proceedings” and that the evidence of the Claimant and his witnesses had in a number of respects been “misleading and untrue.”
Mr Justice Bean ordered that Reginald Mengi should pay £1.2million on account of Sarah Hermitage’s legal costs, which were subjected to detailed assessment by the court. The trial is estimated to have cost Reginald Mengi in excess of £3 million.
Reginald Mengi made three appeals against the judgement. The first in open court which was refused by LJ Bean and two further appeals to the Court of Appeal which were refused on the basis that he and his witnesses had lied to the court and his company lawyer Agipitus Nguma had not properly carried out his duties. He was refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Reginald Mengi is a close friend of President Kikwete of Tanzania. Despite giving his assurances to the British government that he would uphold the rule of law in the Silverdale affair, neither Kikwete or his Foreign Secretary Bernard Membe has done so or, condemned the corruption of the Mengi family or Tanzanian State officials complicit in the corruption that led to the theft of Silverdale Farm from the British investors.
Dr Mengi: Name corrupt people, don`t taint whole institutions
By Emmanuel Onyango
22nd February 2014
The Tanzania Media Owners Association (MOAT) has pointed a finger at journalists who report on supposed corrupt individuals without being fair and objective in relation to ethics and professional conduct in journalism.
MOAT chairman Dr. Reginald Mengi taunted journalists yesterday in Dar es Salaam that it was high time that they should say the truth and not mingle words as unaccredited reporting and generalizing matters. That amounts to saying that the corrupt groups in society are only the police, courts, medical workers or teachers.
Dr. Mengi said that it was not fair to report in such a manner as it would mean that everybody who is working in those fields or belongs to such groups is corrupt.
“If you know someone who is corrupt, regardless of what titles she or he has, just mention the name; don’t hide it,” he told the gathered editors and journalists from various media organizations at a luncheon to congratulate two journalists recently set free by the Kisutu Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam in a case of sedition.
The journalists are former Tanzania Daima Managing Editor Absalom Kibanda, and former group editor for Mwananchi Communications Ltd, Theophil Makunga.
The acquittal of the two senior journalists is an occasion to celebrate the right to speech, by all media personnel in the country.
Narrating how to net corrupt people, Dr. Mengi said journalists have to do thorough investigations in order to get names of the culprits one by one from the suspected groups and report their names through mass media without fear as they shall have gathered enough details to support them.
“Mentioning one group is not fair at all as not all people are corrupt. There are some who are clean and are not happy to hear their image being tarnished,” he said.
He stressed the need for journalists to work tirelessly in order to combat grand corruption in a particular institution and reveal them as this is the only way to end such malpractices in the country.
Dr. Mengi further told journalists that whoever writes issues related to corruption targeting a particular institution that it is fully involved in such malpractice, such a journalist does not perform his/her duties as required.
Journalists must be courageous while performing their duties without fear of reporting on an institution. It is disappointing for the personal integrity of those who are completely innocent, he stated.
Earlier, Dr. Mengi was invited by Tanzania Editors’ Forum (TEF) top official Neville Meena who thanked him for his dedication and efforts he has been showing towards mainstreaming media fraternity in the country.
He also thanked the over 70 editors in the print and electronic media who were following up the case of the two top editors and showed tolerance and effective solidarity up to the end.
On his part, Theophil Makunga thanked Dr. Mengi and fellow journalists including editors who worked to bring to a happy conclusion the case that he and Kibanda faced.
He said that during earlier court proceedings, he could not believe that he was among suspects, but by the time the case was put to judgment he realized that it had come to such a serious stage.
He narrated the torture he underwent, denied the right to move outside the country to attend the graduation ceremony of his daughter at the University of Nairobi.
On his part, Absalom Kibanda stressed the need for journalists to continue showing solidarity when in trouble as this shows that their emancipation will not be blocked by curbing the freedom of expression.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN