The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says it stands by its Mukula exposé and with News Diggers, emphasizing that it supports journalists’ rights to work without fear of persecution.

And the EIA has asked Zambian government officials to focus their efforts on ending the illegal trade of Mukula.

EIA made these remarks in a tweet yesterday.

“EIA stands by our report and with News Diggers in support of the right of journalists everywhere to conduct their job without fear of persecution. We encourage Zambian government officials to focus efforts on ending the illegal trade of endangered Mukula,” read the tweet.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Given Lubinda, his Lands counterpart Jean Kapata and President Edgar Lungu’s daughter Tasila sued News Diggers Media Limited, its editor Mukosha Funga and the 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 in the Lusaka High Court, restraining Funga, News Diggers! and EIA from publishing similar libelous and malicious 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 News Diggers’ editorial opinions 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.