Broke ZBC sues newspaper for $10 million

The embattled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation is demanding US$10 million from The Standard newspaper for a story in which the publication claimed the national broadcaster was collapsing.

The Standard published the story under the headline "ZBC faces collapse as managers plunder" on November 13 claiming that the broadcaster had failed to pay its workers for the past three months, but was giving hefty salaries, allowances and loans to managers.

The story also claimed ZBC had obsolete transmission equipment.

In a letter to The Standard yesterday, ZBC chief executive Mr Happison Muchechetere dismissed the allegations and demanded a page one retraction and US$10 million for defamation. "In the circumstances we demand, as we hereby do, a full retraction of the story and payment of US$10 million as defamation damages," Mr Muchechetere said.

The claim is against the paper, its editor and the reporter who wrote the story. "We demand that the payment be made within seven days of receipt of the letter, failing which we will proceed to have summons issued through the High Court without further notice to you," he said.

Mr Muchechetere said the "libelous, defamatory and scandalous" allegations were reported as fact.

"In carrying this article your conduct was malicious and remains malicious, highly irresponsible and provocative in the extreme," he said.

He also said the article was aimed at portraying the broadcaster as a Zanu-PF propaganda tool and to make viewers and customers shun the broadcaster.

Mr Muchechetere said this would permanently impair the goodwill and standing of ZBC and its management.

At a Press conference at Pockets Hill, Mr Muchechetere urged journalists to report responsibly.

He also gave managers at the broadcaster the green light to take individual legal action against The Standard if they so wished. ZBC television studios and quality control manager Mr Samuel Maghonde took journalists on a tour of the complex.