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Newspaper sued for defamation

(MISA/IFEX) - The Buschschule Namibia, a European juvenile welfare service project, has sued "Allgemeine Zeitung", a German daily newspaper, for publishing alleged defamatory and slanderous articles.

In a series of articles that appeared in the newspaper's 21 February 2003 edition, the newspaper stated that a former staff member of Buschschule Namibia had filed a complaint against the youth aid organisation with the Foreign Office in Germany (the source of most its funding).

The complaint is based on a case of alleged sexual abuse of a girl committed by a Buschschule youth and the Buschschule management's refusal to accept responsibility for the matter. The newspaper also reported that former Buschschule staff members and integration parents expressed their dissatisfaction with Buschschule's management.

A separate article in the same edition of the newspaper referred to the Buschschule project of housing youths from Germany with local host families as "trade in children", as it became known that the organisation stood to gain N$25,000 (approx. US$3,325) for every child housed in Namibia. It was also reported that Buschschule management was aware of the "unusual sexual behaviour" of the youth, who was nevertheless sent to a host family with two young daughters. Another article questioned the adequacy of the management and the manner in which the programme is executed.

"Allgemeine Zeitung" was served with papers on 4 June, claiming financial prejudice, defamation and damage to reputation to the tune of N$250,000 (approx. US$33,250) for each of the four plaintiffs.

"Allgemeine Zeitung" editor Eberhard Hoffmann told MISA Namibia that internal reforms have begun at the Buschschule and it seems that the litigation will be dropped.

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