THE Lusaka Magistrate’s Court has convicted and sentenced photographer Cornelius Mulenga known as Chellah Tukuta to two years imprisonment with hard labor for calling former minister of information and broadcasting services Dora Siliya a high professional prostitute.

High Court judge Lameck Mwale, who sat as Lusaka chief resident magistrate, said Tukuta’s libelous statement against Siliya that she sells girls to high profile people for sex and that she is the highest of the highest professional prostitutes was extremely careless, irresponsible and deliberately calculated to injure her reputation in the eyes of right thinking members of society.

He said Tukuta exhibited lack of respect to Siliya, an elderly woman who deserved the same.

This is in a matter where Tukuta was facing a charge of libel.

On May 26, 2020, Tukuta on his Facebook page published defamatory matter affecting Siliya saying “this Dora Siliya is hooking up girls, selling them to high profile men so that they can be sleeping with them. She is actually the highest professional prostitute. If Dora Siliya is refusing these allegations that she does not connect girls to high profile people for sex let her come.”

In his judgment, justice Mwale found that the statement by Tukuta against Siliya was defamatory.

He found that video of Tukuta alleging that Siliya sells young girls to high profile men for sex and that she is the highest of the highest professional prostitute was an unlawful publication as it was conveyed in a manner that it became widely known by many people, including the complainant herself.

“The publication lacks truth and one would not say that it is of public benefit that lies should be peddled. I do not see any privilege in regard to the statement the accused made against the complainant who was at the time serving as cabinet minister, a business woman and a prominent person,” justice Mwale said.

He said Tukuta never furnished the court with any evidence to substantiate his allegations that Siliya sells young girls to high profile men for sex neither did he prove that she is the highest professional prostitute as he opted to remain silent in his defence.

“As lamented by the complainant in her testimony, the fact that she had failed relationships does not make her a prostitute or indeed that someone else (her ex- lover Mark Mubalama) called her a prostitute on a different occasion does not give Tukuta a license to call her a highest professional prostitute,” justice Mwale said.

He ruled that the evidence against Tukuta was overwhelming and his silence in the face of strong evidence against him strengthened the inference that he was guilty.

“In the premises, I have no reasonable doubt in my mind that the accused committed the offence as charged and I find him guilty of libel and I convict him accordingly,” judge Mwale said.

At this point, Tukuta’s lawyer Linda Kasonde informed court that there were stories that had been circulating on social media by online pages in the early hours of the day indicating that Tukuta has been convicted and jailed for three years.

The court said social media should not be given much credibility as anyone who was against Tukuta could publish lies.

Justice Mwale cautioned administrators of social media pages against peddling lies as it was irresponsible to publish unverified information.

During mitigation, Tukuta’s other lawyer Wamukwamba of LCK chambers said the convict was a first offender who deserves maximum leniency.

She said libel is a misdemeanor and the court could impose a fine as opposed to imprisonment.

“The state has failed to demonstrate aggravated circumstances of libel and we pray that you consider a fine in the matter,” said Wamukwamba.

Handing down his sentence, Justice Mwale said “I note with deep concern that there is a high tendency by some irresponsible members of the public who are in the habit of incessantly defaming others without any regard. The convict in this matter demonstrated lack of respect to the complainant who at the time was cabinet minister and an elderly woman who deserved respect.”

“I am of the view that there is need to deter would be offenders and the convict in this matter shall be used as an example. In the premises I sentence the convict to 24 months imprisonment with hard labor effective today leave to appeal to the High Court is granted within 14 days,” said justice Mwale.

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