WINDHOEK: A defamation claim launched by former Walvis Bay Municipality Chief Executive Officer Augustinus Katiti against local English daily newspaper ‘The Namibian’ continued in the High Court on Tuesday.
In the matter, Katiti is suing the newspaper, its founding editor Gwen Lister, the newspaper’s Swakopmund-based journalist Adam Hartman and estate agent Regina Kotchanova for an amount of N.dollars 300 000.
The case is being heard by acting High Court Judge Petrus Unengu, with Lister testifying about journalism ethics in general, as well as her role as the editor of that newspaper over a period of 26 years.
She also testified about her experiences as a working journalist for a period of 36 years.
“Our newspaper is the voice of the voiceless Namibians. It is critical to this newspaper that we play a role of being a watchdog for the voiceless Namibians.
Our newspaper is not a tabloid that hunts for sensational stories. This is a very serious newspaper that commits itself to a high level of professionalism in its conduct of news reporting,” explained Lister.
She further told the court that during her 26-year stay at the newspaper, there was no single judgement meted out by a Namibian court for defamation against The Namibian newspaper ever.
“In all our news reporting, we subscribe to the journalism Code of Ethics. Our newspaper is not one that sells on sensational types of stories. We report especially on cases of people with more responsibilities in public offices. In our reporting, we put more weight on stories where there is some degree of waste of public funds by high-ranking Government officials,” said Lister.
Her lawyer, Advocate Andrew Corbett, told the court before calling her to the stand that his client feels that the article which was published in the newspaper on 21 December 2007 was true, reasonable and in the public interest.
Katiti is suing the Free Press of Namibia, the company that owns ‘The Namibian’ newspaper, Lister, Hartman and Kotchanova in connection with an article that was published in that newspaper some five years ago.
Katiti claims that the article, which was about a theft charge which Kotchanova had laid against him with the Namibian Police, was defamatory.
According to Katiti, the article was understood by the reading public to mean that he was being criminally prosecuted; that he was allegedly a thief and criminal, or someone who did not honour his contractual obligations; that he was an amoral and untrustworthy person; and that he had illegally sold office equipment and furniture which belonged to a real estate franchise which he had bought from Kotchanova’s husband in mid-2007.
The Namibian newspaper, Lister and Hartman are all denying that the article was defamatory, or that its publication was unlawful.
They have said the facts reported in the article were essentially the truth, and that the publication was reasonable and in the public interest.
In the article, Kotchanova was quoted as allegedly saying that she had laid a charge of theft against Katiti after he apparently failed to pay the full agreed price for the real estate franchise that he had bought from her husband.
She also claimed that Katiti had sold off office equipment and furniture belonging to the real estate agency before he paid for the franchise in full.
The article, which prompted Katiti to sue the newspaper, was published about nine months after Katiti received a payout of N.dollars 2,78 million from the Walvis Bay Municipality upon his resignation from his job at that local authority.
Katiti is represented by Phillip Barnard, on instructions from Alwyn Harmse from the law firm Fischer, Quarmby & Pfeifer.
The Namibian newspaper, Lister and Hartman are represented by Andrew Corbett, on instructions from Michael Böttger of the law firm LorentzAngula Inc.
The court hearing continues on Wednesday.