Two Justices of the Appellate Court have directed Daily Monitor newspaper to pay Pius Bigirimana, a total sum of shs450 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.
Currently, he is Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Judiciary.
The judgment delivered on Thursday, January 5, 2023 by Deputy Registrar comes on heels of an appeal by Daily Monitor challenging the judgement of the High Court by judge Musa Ssekana which he delivered on December 10, 2021.
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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.
Some of them include ‘Auditors target Bigirimana in cash probe; a publication of 14th October 2012’, ‘MPs order Government to remove Bigirimana; a publication of 2nd November 2012’,’Bigirimana contradicts himself on purchase of Ministers’ cars; a publication of 30th November 2012’, ‘Bigirimana’s wife acquires Shs.250 million Mercedes Benz’, and ‘Corruption Ledger; a publication of 10th March 2013’ among very many other publications within the said time frame.
Court of Appeal agrees with Judge Ssekana that the right to reputation is acknowledged as an inherent personal right of every person.
“A man’s reputation is his property and perhaps more valuable than any other property. Indeed, if we reflect on the degree of suffering occasioned by a loss of character and compare it with that occasioned by loss of property, the amount of injury by defamation far exceeds that loss of property,” Mr Ssekana ruled in 2021.
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.