Daily Monitor, a local newspaper has yet again lost another application in the Court of Appeal in which its attorneys sought an interim order seeking to stay execution of the decree and all orders of the Appeal no 170 of 2022 pending disposal of the of the substantive application.
In the Appeal (number 170) two Justices of the Appellate Court directed Daily Monitor newspaper to pay Pius Bigirimana, a total sum of shs 450 million as compensatory damages for defaming him in a series of articles published on several dates between 2012 and 2015.
Bigirimana at a time served as Permanent Secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister before he moved to Gender Ministry in the same capacity.
The judgment delivered on January 5, 2023 by Deputy Registrar followed an appeal by Daily Monitor challenging the judgement of the High Court by judge Musa Ssekana which he delivered on December 10, 2021.
Judge Ssekana awarded costs to Bigirimana worth shs 450 million in a lawsuit where the PS demanded shs.1 billion of general damages to defamation and exemplary damages of Shs.900 million.
In addition he sought an order compelling the defendants to publish an apology in the said newspapers and online news channel and a permanent injunction restraining the defendants and their agents, editors and publishers from making, publishing and circulating any further defamatory stories him.
The said publications have since been injurious to the person of Mr.Bigirimana.
Court of Appeal agreed with Judge Ssekana that the right to reputation is acknowledged as an inherent personal right of every person.
In major judgement of Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Elizabeth Musoke ruled that the statements by Daily Monitor are deemed to be bonafide until a Court finds them to be defamatory.
“The claim in that case concerned one defamatory publication while the present case concerns 15 different defamatory publications, published over a space of 3 years. The sum of Ug. shs. 350,000,000/= was therefore adequate and I would maintain it. I would not enhance the amount awarded as in my view, the sum is substantial enough to vindicate the respondent’s damaged reputation. I would also not interfere with the award of Ug. shs. 100,000,000/= exemplary damages,” she said.
“In conclusion, all grounds of appeal having failed, I would dismiss the appeal and uphold the judgment and orders of the learned trial Judge save the order for the 1st defendant in appellant to publish an apology to the respondent, which is set cross-appeal. I would award the aside. I would also dismiss the appeal with ¾ of the total of the costs of the appeal, less the costs of the cross-appeal. Since only Gashirabake, JA agrees, the Court, by majority decision (Kibeedi, JA dissenting in part), dismisses the appeal, but modifies one of the orders made by the learned trial Judge in the manner stated in this judgment,” she ruled.
On Friday 20th January, another Court of Appeal Justice Gashirabake agreed with counsel for the respondent (Bigirimana) that the terms in the guarantee are equivalent to terms in a contract and binding upon the parties.
“The appellants to ask Court to halt the enforcement of the said guarantee, amounts to inviting Court to vary the terms of the guarantee. This application is therefore dismissed with costs to the respondent,” Justice Gashirabake ruled.
This comes at the back drop of Monitor publication limited agreeing with Pius Bigirimana after the high Court judgement that they guarantee to pay him the shs. 450,000,000 if they lose the Appeal at the Court of Appeal, they wanted to circumvent the guarantee by filing a notice of Appeal on the Supreme Court.