PRESIDENT Michael Sata is free to attend court sessions and prove his innocence, says State House.
On Wednesday, President Sata went to court to testify in a libel case against the Daily Nation.
In an interview yesterday, President Sata’s press aide George Chellah said the President chose to open himself to cross-examination by the defendants because he did not want to be repressive.
“If the President wanted to be repressive, he could have opted to use the criminal defamation laws left by the British colonialists and the previous Zambian government to protect his reputation. But he chose to use civil libel laws open to every citizen and appeared in court and testified, opening himself to cross examination by the defendants,” said Chellah.
And in an interview with the Voice of America on Wednesday evening, Chellah said that there was no legislation stopping the President from stepping into any courtroom to prove his innocence.
“The President is trying to show a balance between press freedom and individual rights. This is a process that he has been through before and he is comfortable with it. He has done that throughout his political career,” Chellah said.
Chellah said the President felt defamed and decided to seek remedial measures using the judicial process.
“The President is trying to show a balance between a free press and individual rights. I think in as much as the President is an advocate of press freedom, he can use his individual rights to protect his reputation,” he said.
Chellah said the President had a reputation to protect and he had the right to seek justice where he feels aggrieved.
“There is nothing wrong with that and there is no law stopping him. He is also a citizen and if his reputation is at stake, he can choose to go to court and seek justice because he has confidence in the judicial system that is in place,” he said.
Chellah said if the court required him again, he would certainly show up.
“If you look at the history of Michael Sata as an individual, you will understand why he is doing what he is doing. There are a number of defamation cases which he has taken to court as minister and also as an opposition leader and he has cleared his name using the same court process. So this is a process that he has been through before and he is comfortable with it. He has done that throughout his political career. Precedence is there and there are many references we can make. The only difference is that this time he is Head of State,” he said.
And in a separate interview, Chellah said President Sata was the only politician committed to supporting media self-regulation.
“President Sata is the only politician, probably the whole of Africa, whose party has committed itself to supporting media self-regulation and put that into its election manifesto. And when he came into power, he ensured that was done. In Zambia today, the press is not threatened with statutory regulation; it is totally regulating itself,” said Chellah.