A court in Abuja on Thursday blocked an attempt by Zinox Technologies Limited to suppress press freedom and stop PREMIUM TIMES from continuing its reporting on the allegation of N170 million contract fraud against the computer firm.
In its ruling on the motion by Zinox Technologies seeking an injunction to restrain PREMIUM TIMES from further reporting the scandal, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Apo, Abuja, dismissed the application for lack of merit.
In his judgment, Justice SC Oriji said a close examination of the totality of evidence and address by Zinox Technologies did not show any cogent reason why the court should grant the injunction in its favour.
According to the judge, a media organisation cannot be restrained from publishing a report yet to be proven legally as libellous.
The judge said when a media organisation considers its publication factual, and its publishers have sworn to defend the facts of the publication, the court will infringe on the public’s right to know if it stops the press from exercising the responsibility guaranteed under Section 39 of the Constitution.
Consequently, the Court dismissed the application by Zinox Technologies whose chairman is Leo Stan Ekeh and upheld PREMIUM TIMES’ argument that the former had no good reason to warrant the Court granting the injunction.
The matter was adjourned to March 11 for the hearing of their motion for extension of time within which they can file their reply to our statement of defence.
ROOTS OF THE CASE
On May 15, 2017, Zinox Technologies, an affiliate of Zinox Group, filed a suit seeking to restrain PREMIUM TIMES and some of its officials from continuing its reporting on the N170.3 million contract fraud scandal involving five of the company’s officials, including its top management.
Zinox had accused the newspaper’s editors of libelling it and its chairman, Stanley Ekeh, through the series of publications on the scam.
Apart from its demand for N2 billion in damages, Zinox asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining PREMIUM TIMES from further publication, an apology as well as court directive for the removal from the newspaper’s website series of publications on the scandal.
But, PREMIUM TIMES pushed back with a counter application demanding N10 billion as damages against Zinox Technologies and its top officials, for attempting to suppress press freedom by asking the court to stop the discharge of its role inform the public factually on issues in the society.
Pending the commencement of hearing on the substantive suit, Zinox, on December 3, 2018, filed an application seeking the court’s injunction to restrain PREMIUM TIMES from publishing any further report on fraud scandal against its top officials. Hearing on the matter was adjourned to January 8.
At the resumed sitting, after arguments were heard from both parties, the court adjourned till February 28 for the ruling, and commencement of hearing on the substantive suit.