Nigerian Journalist sued for ‘defaming’ Professor battles for freedom3 min read
By Joel Gomiyer, Jos
Hearing into a case of defamation filed against Nigerian Blogger and Journalist, Masara Kim by former Gubernatorial Campaign Director General of the Peoples Democratic Party in Plateau State, Prof. Dimis Mailafiya resumed today in Jos.
The 3year-old case follows a news report published by the Journalist on an alleged bribing of Prof. Mailafiya and some Party officials to promote an unpopular running mate for the 2019 opposition Gubernatorial candidate, Jeremiah Useni.
Controversies were high in the Party over the selection of a running mate few days to the deadline for the submission of such details to electoral officials.
Before Kim’s report, a local newspaper, Daily Trust had reported that then Chairman of the Party in Plateau Central, Benedict Shiknugul was selected by the Party’s flag bearer as running mate, after consulting with Party Officials and other stakeholders.
Kim lifted the story before publishing Benedict’s alleged planned replacement with a former Director in Industrial Training Fund, James Dalok.
The Party confirmed the selection of Mr. Dalok two days later, but Prof. Mailafiya who had reportedly demanded for Kim’s sources in a telephone conversation proceeded to court seeking a retraction, order of restraint against further “defamatory” reports and N50,000,000 ($131,164.74) damages.
In 2019, parties close to both Masara Kim and Prof. Mailafiya opened talks for out-of-court settlement of the matter. However, the battle has raged on with Mailafiya parading four witnesses against Kim.
The Journalist was expected to open his defense today after Mailafiya ended his submission last November. But at the resumed hearing at the Plateau State High Court 4 in Jos, Kim was absent for “uncontrollable” circumstances, his lawyer, Nanle Komak said.
The case was therefore adjourned to 2nd September, 2021. Sources however say the Journalist is likely to file counter claims before the next hearing.
The Court during one of its sittings last year granted the right to publish proceedings on the case against the request of the Plaintiff seeking to restrain journalists from reporting it.
Counsel to the Plaintiff, Barr. A.A Ibrahim of M. Y. Saleh (SAN) and Co law firm had told the Court that reporting the proceeding was reheating the “defamatory report” which they were contending.
The Defense Counsel, Nanle Komak of Komak Law Company, Jos however argued that journalists have a duty to report any matter of public interest provided such an act does not contravene the provisions of the law.
“Journalists have always reported issues in the society including Court cases and this should not be an exception,” he said.
The Plaintiff’s Counsel insisted that reporting the court proceeding was not just the problem but making reference to old reports linking his client to corruption.
The presiding Judge, Justice Christine Dabup however ruled out the request, saying journalists had the right to report any court case.
Dabuk maintained that providing a contextual background into the case while reporting such was a normal and acceptable practice in journalism.
Kim was last year interrogated by the State Security Services and Police over an investigative news report he published, exposing alleged plans to attack some farming communities in Plateau State.
The Journalist was forced to retract the story or face “severe consequences”, it was gathered. Legal sources say Kim was advised to comply with the directive to contain the immediate threats. When freed however, a fundamental rights action was filed against the DSS by a digital rights lawyers organization in Lagos.
Kim has faced several threats including deadly ambushes since he began his career in 2008. He has however refused to accept the idea of an asylum saying he cannot run away while his country has a need.