Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula got a temporary reprieve on Wednesday after the High Court issued orders stopping the BBC from publishing stories linking him to corruption deals with a tobacco company.
Justice Nicholas Ombija agreed to grant the orders after Mr Wetang’ula’s lawyer, James Orengo, said the story aired on November 30 was defamatory.
Mr Wetang’ula denied allegations that he was given an airline ticket for his wife as the BBC story alleged.
According to BBC’s Panorama programme, Mr Wetang’ula is among MPs who allegedly received “favours” from British American Tobacco (BAT) company in July 2012 while he was minister for trade, including soliciting for a plane ticket for his wife.
The report also alleged that BAT’s lobbyist Adell-Owino requested the purchase of the said ticket and an email was sent to Mr Wetang’ula notifying him that he was to be hosted at Globe House, the company’s headquarters in London.
“BBC knew that the story about him and his wife was false and reported it recklessly without caring whether it was true or false. They deliberately wanted to harm and destroy his reputation,” Mr Orengo said.
Even though the Senate Minority leader has publicly denied any involvement with the allegations raised in the news story titled “The Secret Bribes of Big Tobacco” in the BBC’s Panorama programme, he did so again in court.
“The natural meaning of the said broadcast was that he is engaged in criminal activities and corporate conspiracy for the advancement of profit instead of promotion of health and life, BBC failed to verify the purchase of the alleged ticket or its use,” Mr Orengo said.
The judge certified the case as urgent and allowed it to be heard during court vacation, which runs from December 21 to January 13, as he issued the temporary orders.
“BBC or its employees are restrained from airing, broadcasting, publishing, printing, disseminating, circulating or presenting the contents of its news story and the Panorama programme that specifically refers to him until the hearing and determination of this case,” Justice Ombija said.
In his defamation suit, Mr Wetang’ula is accusing BBC of sensationalising the story to get the highest circulation and reach of its report by destroying his reputation.
He faults BBC for destroying his 18-year reputation as an MP and a Cabinet minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
He wants the BBC stopped from permanently publishing the said story since it allegedly refused to grant him an apology, besides an unspecified amount of money as compensation.
The case will be heard on January 7, 2016.
Source: Nation Media