The supreme court in Ireland on Thursday rejected city lawyer Fred Mwema’s petition to compel Facebook to reveal information about controversial blogger Tom Voltaire Okwalinga aka TVO.
Mwema sued Facebook Ireland over allegedly defamatory posts by TVO alleging that he had received Shs900M from the state so as to frustrate former presidential candidate John Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s petition contesting the 2016 presidential poll.
Mwema thus sued Facebook, praying to court to reveal the identity and location of TVO, but his petition was quashed by the High court, which prompted him to appeal.
But the Court of Appeal said Muwema’s right to also bring defamation proceedings against TVO was outweighed by the risk to life or bodily integrity of TVO from the Ugandan authorities if his identity is disclosed.
When Mwema brought defamation proceedings against TVO, he sought orders to have the posts taken down by Facebook Ireland because it provides the social media service to all users outside of the US and Canada.
The posts were removed but Muwema also sought the identity of TVO so that he could join him in the defamation proceedings againstFacebook, but this was rejected by court.
But last year High Court justice Justice Donald Binchy refused to order identity disclosure saying the threat to TVO was sufficiently serious and that Muwema’s right to a good name had to take second place to TVO’s right to life and bodily integrity.
Facebook argued there was evidence to show, if the identity was disclosed, TVO would be exposed to arrest and ill-treatment at the hands of the Ugandan authorities. However, Mwema has since vowed to take the matter to the Irish Court of Appeal, claiming that he was given the due justice he deserved in the case.
Facebook had also provided evidence from award-winning Ugandan human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, who said a man called Shaka Robert, who was widely believed to be TVO, had been subjected to abuse of his rights by the Ugandan authorities over online activism and that the same would happen to TVO if his identity was disclosed.
“Anyone arrested on suspicion of being TVO is subjected to extreme abuse of their rights, often in violation of court orders,” Opio told court. While giving the decision of the three-judge Court of Appeal, Justice Michael Peart said he would not interfere with the High Court decision.