Justice Ssekana Musa defines what amounts to defamation in the case of Best Kemigisha V Red Pepper Publications Ltd

Civil Suit No.162 Of 2012.
The Judgment Was Delivered On 13th March 2020

This case discusses what amounts to defamation. On the 24th May, 24th May and 6th June 2012, the defendant published a front-page headline stories in its publication, The Red Pepper, entitled “Tooro Queen Mother Arrested in USA” “Queen Mother still missing” and Tooro Queen arrest details emerge” respectively. The stories alleged that she had been detained in the US after being found in possession of fake dollars amounting to 5m USD and explained that the deal had been masterminded by her Ugandan relatives. The above edited statements which were published by the defendant are false, defamatory and intended to malign the good repute and social standing of the plaintiff. The publication of the said articles has caused the plaintiff to suffer hatred, contempt, ridicule, odium, embarrassment and have lowered the plaintiff’s esteem amongst right thinking members of the society generally and her peers in particular. In the proceedings evidence was adduced indicating that the Queen had been in the UK and not the US as alleged by the defendant.

Justice Musa Ssekaana in resolving the matter cited John Patrick Machira v Wangethi Mwangi and anor KLR 532 that defined a defamatory publication as the publication of statement about a person that tends to lower his reputation in the opinion of right-thinking members of the community or to make them shun or avoid him.  The test used to determine whether a statement is capable of giving defamatory meaning was discussed in the case of A.K. Oils & Fats (U) Ltd vs Bidco Uganda Limited HCCS No. 715 of 2005 where Bamwine J (as he then was), relied on Sim v Stretch [1936] 2 ALL ER 123 A.C., where Lord Atkins held that the conventional phrase “exposing the plaintiff to hatred, ridicule and contempt” is probably too narrow. The question is complicated by having to consider the person and class of persons whose reaction to the publication is the test of the wrongful character of the words used. He proposed, in that case, the test: “would the words tend to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of the right-thinking members of society generally? 

In the present case, it is true that the Plaintiff is a public figure that is a Queen Mother of Tooro. Court found that the publications directly lowered the status of the Plaintiff before right-thinking members of society and the fact that the Plaintiff was always stated in the articles that had demeaning headlines an aspect that caused it to be malicious. The contents of the publications were by far not true as we have seen above and there was malice proved.

The defendants were ordered to publish an apology with equal influence for three months and pay damages to the plaintiff.

Civil Suit No.162 Of 2012. The Judgment Was Delivered On 13th March 2020 This case discusses what amounts to defamation. On the 24th May, 24th May