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"Times of Swaziland" newspaper sued by Speaker of the House of Assembly for alleged defamation

(MISA/IFEX) - The privately-owned "Times of Swaziland" newspaper is being sued by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Prince Guduza, for 2,000,000 Euros for alleged defamation. Guduza is brother to King Mswati III.

The lawsuit follows recent reports linking the Speaker to an import and export company allegedly involved in illegal trade. Following the reports, the Speaker faced extreme pressure in Parliament, with MPs seeking to remove him from his position. The Speaker had to defend himself, stating that he resigned from the company.

The company, Tanya Investments, is currently involved in a court battle with the government after its consignment of cigarettes, worth 17 million Euros, imported from overseas was impounded by the Department of Customs and Excise.

In a letter to the "Times" sent through his lawyers, the Speaker claims that he was defamed by a series of articles and commentaries in various editions of the "Times" and its sister newspapers.

The Speaker's attorneys state that the first article, published on 26 February 2008, was issued without affording their client an opportunity to comment or reply to the allegations against him "as required in law and recognized good journalistic practice."

"The cigarettes in question did not belong to our client but a separate legal entity known as Tanya Investment (Pty) Limited. The publication of the aforesaid article set the tone for further articles and commentaries in the newspaper in which our client was accused of being a liar, unfit to be Speaker of Parliament, abusing his position as Speaker, abuse of power in general and being corrupt and engaging in a generally corrupt relationship with the police."

The lawyers argue that the articles were published recklessly without regard to the accuracy of the information relied upon. They further stated that the Speaker, before he resigned from the company, was a non-Executive Director and as such he was not involved in the company's operational matters.

"We may mention the fact that the company, which our client resigned from as a director on February 2, 2008, had not been found guilty of any wrong-doing by any court of law," the lawyers added.

The "Times" is yet to respond to the lawyers' letter of demand.

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