The Tab “unashamedly admits its own sensationalism”

Lizo Mzimba, the BBC News Correspondent and former Newsround Presenter, has settled a libel claim with The Independent which centered around false accusations originally published in The Tab.

Senior Libel Judge at the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice Tugendhat, heard a Statement in Open Court on 1 March which set out the basis for Mr Mzimba’s libel claim against The Independent, and concluded that Mzimba had accepted ‘a substantial sum by way of damages and his legal costs’ from The Independent and was happy for the proceedings to be brought to a close. The record was thereafter withdrawn.

A statement given by solicitors Lewis Silkin LLP, who acted on behalf of Mr Mzimba, indicated that Mr Mzimba had already received apologies, legal costs and substantial damages from The Daily Mail (online edition) and The Evening Standard (online and print editions) in respect of the story which they had printed concerning Mzimba. A claim was been brought against The Independent because they refused to print a retraction after their source, The Tab, published a full retraction and apology on their website.

The story, which made a number of false claims in relation to Mr Mzimba, first appeared as an article in The Tab in October 2009. Although the original article is no longer available online, The Tab’s retraction and apology gives some indication of the accusations levelled at Mr Mzimba: “We fully accept that he was not 'seen draping himself over a number of girls'; it was untrue to label him as a 'sleaze' and a 'perve'; and we were wrong to accuse him of loitering around ladies' toilets to support false allegations that his behaviour while in Cambridge was debauched.”

This story was later picked up by national publications such as The Independent, The Daily Mail and The Evening Standard. The Independent reported that ‘Cambridge University’s new tabloid, The Tab’ had published a ‘red-top style expose’ of ‘the former Newsround stalwart-turned-BBC entertainment correspondent’ and went on to repeat the numerous false allegations made by The Tab, inferring that Mr Mzimba had been too visibly inebriated to carry out his work for the BBC, and that he had behaved in a sexually inappropriate way and that he had been rightly humiliated by a group of students who secured him to a wall with gaffer tape and verbally mocked him.

The Independent’s story also concerned one additional untrue element: it stated that Mr Mzimba had ‘declined to comment’, when in fact the only communitication that Mzimba had received from The Independent journalist was an email which inquired whether or not he had seen the student tabloid article about him, suggested it has used ‘rather a lot of creative licence’, but did not indicate that an urgent reply to the email was necessary or that The Independent were planning to run a similar story.

This is not the only time that the national media has picked up stories from the The Tab, the latest notably related to the publication of Cambridge college disciplinary records, a story which also gained the attention of The Daily Mail and The Telegraph in November 2010.

The experience seems to have had little if any dampening effect on the attitudes of the online student publication. When commenting on the high points of the life of The Tab thus far, Jack Rivlin, one of The Tab’s founders and editors had this to say: "At the risk of getting sued, Lizo. The whole thing was hilarious - I wish we didn't have to take it down." This statement was later amended, and no longer appears on The Tab’s website.