HomeOpinionsCould the BBC Face a Defamation Lawsuit for Documentary on TB Joshua?

Could the BBC Face a Defamation Lawsuit for Documentary on TB Joshua?


By Theophilus Kachi Eke

The BBC Africa Eye’s recent release, “Disciples: The Cult of TB Joshua,” delves into allegations of rapes, abortions, assaults, occultism, slavery, and manipulation levelled against the late Prophet TB Joshua, leader of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) by his former disciples and members, including 5 Britons.

Despite widespread controversy and denial of these allegations by SCOAN, questions arise regarding the legal avenues available for redress. According to some, it is only convenient for the BBC to release a harmful documentary against a late person who obviously cannot defend himself.

This post examines the possibility of a defamation lawsuit against the BBC by either the family of TB Joshua or the leadership of SCOAN.

The right to institute an action in defamation is considered a personal right in law as it pertains to the individual person (in personam) rather than a property or the world (in rem). This means that only the person whose right has been infringed upon can take legal action to enforce such right.

The legal maxim “actio personalis moritur cum persona” suggests that a personal action dies with the individual, rendering a dead person incapable of suing or being sued – C.R.B.R.D.A. v. Sulc (2001). This principle has been upheld in plethora of cases.

The case of Ifejika v. Oputa (2001) solidified the notion that there is no survival of a cause of action for defamation. In essence, this implies that defamatory statements about a deceased person may go unchallenged legally, as their estate, including family and relatives, cannot initiate legal action against the defamer.

However, a nuanced argument emerges when considering the documentary’s content, which highlights purportedly fake and exaggerated miracles attributed not only to TB Joshua but also to the organization, SCOAN. While TB Joshua, as an individual, may not be posthumously defended, the reputation of SCOAN as a collective entity could be at stake.

Given that these broadcasts were originally presented under the umbrella of SCOAN as truthful, an allegation of deception and exaggeration can be construed as defamatory to the organization’s reputation and goodwill – Omega Bank Plc v. Govt., Ekiti State (2007). Therefore, while the family of TB Joshua may not have grounds to sue for defamation against the BBC, the leadership of SCOAN could potentially pursue legal action.

Theophilus is Finance, Capital Markets, Intellectual Property and Media & Entertainment Lawyer

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