Lawyers representing arrested Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela yesterday complained that the News Diggers exposé that revealed the list of companies involved in the alleged corruption linked to the government official, was casting public judgement on the accused without trial.
And Lusaka Magistrate David Simusamba has directed that media houses should desist from misrepresenting facts in the case involving beleaguered Chitotela.
Meanwhile, Chitotela’s unruly sympathisers yesterday roughed up a Prime TV journalist in their attempt to shield the corruption accused Minister from being filmed after he appeared at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court.
The PF cadres, who were flashing the PF symbol after the court hearing, were against the idea of reporters filming Chitotela.
In this matter, Chitotela, Gregory Chibanga, Brut Holdings Limited and Diris Mukange are facing four counts of concealing property suspected to be proceeds of crime.
However, Chitotela is only appearing in two counts in which he is alleged to have concealed two properties in Makeni and Ibex Hill, Lusaka, under the name Diris Mukange, property reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
The Minister is being represented by six lawyers from different law firms.
When the matter came up for plea before Magistrate Simusamba, Thursday, the accused could not take plea, as the representative of accused number three, the company, was not present.
But before that, defence lawyers Neol Simwanza and Jonas Zimba asked the Court to warm journalists from irresponsible reporting.
Simwanza said it was the court’s duty to determine the matter.
“Without intent to gag responsible media coverage, we ask this court to speak into irresponsible reporting of the matter before you. It is the duty of the court to determine this matter based on evidence,” Simwanza said.
Zimba argued that irresponsible reporting would be prejudicial to their client, citing a News Diggers exposé published shortly after the minister was arrested.
“I do adopt the submission, the prejudice that will be caused and has been caused by the publications under this discussion today, e.g News Diggers! ‘Corruption Trail’ brings public judgement on the client without a trial. At the same time, the cries that my client be suspended seriously places him on public judgement, which would prejudice this matter before court,” argued Zimba.
In his ruling, Magistrate Simusamba warned the media to desist from irresponsible publication or misrepresentation of facts.
He told journalists to work professionally, as he would not black out anyone from covering the matter.
The matter comes up on Tuesday next week.