‘Mmeto wa a Tambwali’ demands retraction of story

This is a demand letter asking your news organization to quickly retract your article of June 23, 2012 entitled “Facebook terrorists ‘Mmeto wa a Tambwali’ exposed, face charges,” which Cecelia Mawaya authored defaming us, libelously charging us with terrorist acts, and threatening us and members of the alleged facebook group with frivolous criminal charges.

If you do not retract the article by the end of business day June 25, 2012, we will be compelled to file libel charges for written defamation against Cecelia Mawaya on her personal capacity and against your news organization as a principal for two reasons; 1. because the charges are frivolous and 2. for maliciously defaming us instead of reporting.

The frivolous charges your rich and powerful Malawian men allege are without merit neither in the law nor on moral grounds. Because our communication on Facebook group was private (intended only for its members), legally the communication was therefore privileged.

Under the common law, such a privilege protects communication made in good faith on a subject in which the author and recipient have mutual interests or corresponding duty (See Chapter 18 § 205(i) of Malawi Penal Code). In fact, the Penal Code of Malawi states that our communications and discussions are privileged, on condition that [they were made] in good faith, if the relation between the parties by and to whom the publication is made is such that the person publishing the matter is under some legal, moral or social duty to publish it to the person to whom the publication is made or has legitimate interest in so publishing it . . . [Chap 18 § 205].

As a private group, we have (had) common interests to end prostitution among public officials and curb it among the general public with a view of strengthening the institution of marriage in Malawi. As women, we have overriding legitimate interests in informing each other about the womanizing maneuvers of some men for us to make informed spousal choices and protect our own lives. No other legitimate interest comes closer to the protection of life, which a promiscuous spouse or spousal equivalent can take away through HIV/AIDS.

We hoped the media houses and the instrumentalities of government (including Nyasatimes, the Attorney General, and the Director of Public Prosecutions) would zero-in on the alleged prostitutes to curb the crime of prostitution that has for so long gone unpunished despite prostitution being
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criminalized in Malawi. It therefore smells a rat to see the entire instruments of free speech and justice wrongly focused merely on silencing alleged whistleblowers in their private group rather than prosecuting the conduct of the said promiscuous rich men of power.

It behooves your news organization to learn that common law courts around the world – in Malawi, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Ireland, South Africa, and United States – where we and our membership happen to reside have long recognized that an already diminished reputation has no legal protection because there is nothing to protect. If the reputation of the allegedly castigated “Malawian company executives, prominent lawyers, top flight media personalities, politicians and musicians” is already so diminished that it is questionable whether the whistle-blowing of Malawi ProstitutionLeaks can further diminish that reputation, a court may deem them to be ‘libel-proof’ as a matter of law and bar recovery for the same. The reputation of the allegedly castigated Malawian officials that your news article mentioned needs a lot to be jusiticiable as a matter of law.

A simple search of their reputation on comments published in various Nyasatimes articles leaves a lot to be desired. None publicly commenting on Nyasatimes with fictitious names regarding their reputation has ever been threatened with civil or criminal charges. Nyasatimes has never conducted an investigation, let alone of this magnitude, on such anonymous people to protect the reputation of the allegedly castigated Malawian officials. What a rank hypocrisy by your news organization!

Nyasatimes in the not distant past published or exposed several public and private personalities for engaging in promiscuous acts, some of which were later declared false. We have only discussed reports of promiscuous activities by some public and other personalities in the private confines of our private Facebook group. Our discussions were neither public nor were they intended for public consumption; instead, they were meant for members of the specific private group. It, therefore, smacks of journalistic hypocrisy for Cecelia Mawaya and Nyasatimes to maliciously investigate a private, “closed Facebook group” to censure with malice and criminalize the activities of the closed (not an open) group of women that operates(d) with good faith efforts to eliminate an illegal act of prostitution and its attendant evils in the best interest of our Malawian society. Doing so is an affront to private free speech protected under the law of nations or international customary law. Infringing upon protected free speech of public interest is even more worrisome.

Under Chapter 15 §§ 145 & 146-148 of the Penal Code of Malawi, prostitution is an illegal criminal act. The laws of Malawi criminalize prostitution as an offense against morality for public good. The surge of HIV/AIDs and the number of orphans in Malawi is directly linked to prostitution and the womanizing tendencies of our public officials and some private officers. It is, therefore, not a crime to inform ourselves as women in a private group the misadventures of men who cheat on their own wives, who consequently spread diseases, break families, and leave a lot of children with single mothers, or on the streets and in orphanages
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contrary to Malawi Penal Code Chapter 16 §§ 162-165 (regulating offenses relating to marriage such as bigamy and domestic obligations particularly to children), Chapter 17 § 192 (stipulating negligent acts likely to spread diseases dangerous to life), and Chapter 20 §§ 218-222 (stating the duties relating to the preservation of life and health). But even if our private discussions were to be illegal, the common law clearly provides that public officials have little to no standing for them to bring charges alleging injury to their reputation.
Yet, both Cecilia Mawaya – a journalist deprived of law and Nyasatimes organization chose to speak on behalf of rich Malawian men, quoting irrelevant British Public Order Act of 1986 statute as applied to case law regarding the racist and malicious acts in Liam Stacey v. Fabrice Muamba, the acts of which are clearly distinguishable from the instant case. As such, Cecelia and the media organization chose to indulge in biased reporting. In the minimum, one would have expected Cecilia and Nyasatimes to contact the principal members of the group to hear their side of the story before publication as a sign of journalistic impartiality and integrity. For this reason, Cecelia Mawaya and Nyasatimes will be held liable for defamation and other charges for publishing maliciously frivolous and tit-for-tat stories from various people alleging that our members committed crimes against Malawian officials and other ancillary crimes that have neither merit nor legs.
We have not yet retained a lawyer pending your immediate conduct. However, a cursory review by our prospective lawyer shows that Cecelia and Nyasatimes defamed us. The common law elements of defamation include:
1. the defendant makes a false and defamatory statement concerning the person.
2. the defendant “publishes” or permits the “publication” of the defamatory statement to a third party without a legally recognized privilege to do so.
3. The publication results from intentional or negligent conduct by the defendant.
4. Special harm results from the publication of the defamatory statement or the statement constitutes defamation “per se”. (See also Malawi Pen. Code Chap. 18 §§ 200-207).
After applying the law to the facts in analysis, it is clear that the conduct of Cecilia Mawaya and Nyasatimes meets all the common law elements of the offense enumerated above because:
1. Cecilia Mawaya and Nyasatimes organization intentionally, wantonly and recklessly made false and defamatory statements with malice, alleging that one or more of us committed some crimes unrelated to our alleged Facebook discussions.
2. Cecilia authored and published while Nyasatimes organization permitted the publication of such defamatory statements on its website on June 23, 2012 athttp://www.nyasatimes.com/malawi/2012/06/23/facebook– terrorists-mmeto-wa-a-tambwali-exposed-face-charges/?cp=all#comments (last accessed June 23, 2012).
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3. The manner of the publication by Cecilia Mawaya resulted from her intentional conduct (i.e. she did not write by accident or under duress). In support thereof, Nyasatimes permitted the publication of the article either intentionally or negligently, and
4. Finally, we, the alleged members of the private Facebook group, have suffered special harm as a result of the malicious publication.
Clearly, we shall not be silenced. Chapter 17 § 192 of the Penal Code
speaks with clarity that:
[a]ny person who unlawfully or negligently does any act [including womanizing] which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life [such as HIV/AIDS] shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.
The legislature criminalized such behavior or acts for good public reasons and alerting one another about men engaged in promiscuous activities most likely to spread life-threatening infectious diseases is not against the law. HIV/AIDS is taking away many lives. The Malawian nation is drowning in debt to the point of becoming a ‘donor fearing nation’ in part because of HIV/AIDS related health and social economic problems. We all know prostitution and womanizing is the primary cause of high levels of HIV infection rates in Malawi and indeed in Africa (See e.g., Rt Hon. Dr. Justin Malewezi,
on HIV/AIDS in Malawi).
Why then should addressing head-on the ‘cancerous condition’ devastating
our society become a punishable offense? Why is it so when the male dominated law enforcement institutions finds joy in womanizing and take little to no action in enforcing the law in our books? Is it because it is the rich powerful men or officials benefiting from the illegal and immoral womanizing behavior that we should be subjected to threats of frivolous criminal charges and tit-for-tat witch hunt in Malawi and across the world? Let it be known to these so called powerful men that they can go around the world hunting for some irrelevant law to try to threaten our freedom of speech and expression. Although we may not seem to have the money to buy reporters like Cecelia Mawaya or Nyasatimes media houses, our source of strength is the law on our side.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, we demand your imminent attention to this matter; (1) to retract the story in issue by end of business day on June 25, 2012 (5:00 P.M. Malawian time); (2) that you quickly enjoin any republication of the same by you, your affiliates or other news media houses based on your publication. Should you not retract the story by the stated time on June 25, 2012, we will file suit for recovery on libel charges against Cecelia Mawaya on her individual capacity and Nyasatimes as an organization.
Please do not consider this demand letter a threat, rather consider it a promise.
Respectfully submitted,
s/ The Alleged Facebook Group
Poverty, AIDS and Hunger: Breaking the
Poverty Trap in Malawi (2006) and activism

 

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