News Diggers Media Limited has retained Musa Mwenye SC of Mwenye and Mwitwa Advocates while the America-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), has hired Mutembo Nchito SC of Nchito and Nchito Advocates to represent them in the Mukula smuggling case.

Meanwhile, hearing of an application for an order of interim injunction could not take off yesterday after lawyers representing the EIA applied for an adjournment on grounds that their client had not yet been served with documents on the same.

In this matter, Justice Minister Given Lubinda, his Lands counterpart Jean Kapata and President Edgar Lungu’s daughter Tasila have sued News Diggers Media Limited, its editor Mukosha Funga and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in the Lusaka High Court, demanding damages for libel.

The three sued Funga, News Diggers Media Limited and EIA as first, second and third respondents respectively, in connection to a story on illegal Mukula trade which was published in News Diggers! and derived from an EIA report.

Lubinda, Kapata and Tasila lamented that their characters and reputations had been injured as a result of the said article which alleged that they are part of a ‘Mukula Cartel’ engaged in the illegal harvesting and trade of Mukula logs.

They are now seeking an order of interim and permanent injunction, restraining Funga, News Diggers! and EIA from publishing similar articles and opinions relating to them.

The three are also seeking damages against all the defendants for libel contained in News Diggers! newspaper’s edition of December 6, last year, titled ‘Lungu, Tasila in Mukula cartel’ as well as damages against EIA for libel contained in its publication of December 2019, titled ‘Mukula cartel how timber trafficking networks plunder Zambian forests’.

Lubinda, Kapata and Tasila also want damages against the defendants for libel in the opinions of News Diggers! Newspaper titled “Mukula smugglers are in govt, cartel members are exposing each other”, “Kampyongo said criminals like using his name, Kapata to smuggle Mukula. Why?”, “Remember Kapata said Mukula proceeds were not remitted to Treasury” and “Tasila must learn from Henry Banda”, among other articles and opinions.

The trio is further seeking punitive and exemplary damages, interest and costs.

When the matter came up in Chambers before High Court judge Pixie Yangailo yesterday, on the hearing of an application by the plaintiffs for an order of interim injunction, Mwenye SC placed himself on record as Funga and News Diggers’ lawyer.

Nchito and Chisuwo Hamwela also placed themselves on record as counsel for the third defendant, EIA.

Nchito then applied for an adjournment on grounds that the plaintiffs had not served his client with the documents for an application for an order of interim injunction hearing.

The application for an adjournment was granted after the Plaintiffs’ counsel did not object.

The Court directed that the Plaintiffs counsel serve the Defendant’s with the necessary documents.