THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT KAMPALA
CIVIL SUIT NO. 648 OF 2002
MARIAM MUKASA alias }
NALONGO KITEREDDE } :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: PLAINTIFF
THE NEW VISION PRINTING &}
PUBLISHING CORPORATION } :::::::::::::::::::::::::: DEFENDANT
BEFORE: THE HON. MR. JUSTICE R.O. OKUMU WENGI
The plaintiff, a widow, whose husband is said to have been slain in Mbarara, in the wake of countrywide crackdowns then called Operation Wembley, against criminal syndicates, sued the defendant for defamation. It is alleged that the defendant’s papers Bukedde and Orumuri variously published of and about the plaintiff reports referring to her or associating her to “enemies” guns and thieves, some of whom were killed. The papers also caricatured the plaintiff and her daughter in a Pyrrhic victory celebration amid these operations when the child excelled in her PLE mock exams. The papers then reported that Salongo Aziz, the late husband of the plaintiff, had been gunned down for terrorism. It is also said that the publications allege that the plaintiff was arrested for alleged acts of terrorism and armed thuggery. In a rather detailed plaint the plaintiff contended that these articles depicted her in very bad light as a dangerous thug whereas she is a bona fide businesswoman whose reputation has been greatly injured by the publications. She contended that the defendant should be held liable for libel and the plaintiff be awarded general damages, an injunction and costs of the suit.
The defendant denied liability and claimed justification and alternatively qualified privilege. The defendant also contended that the publications complained of were not defamatory as such and were made in the public interest and without ill will or malice. All the publications were admitted and exhibited as P1 to P4 and four issues were framed for the trial namely:
Whether the publications were defamatory of the plaintiff.
2. Whether the plaintiff suffered damages.
3. Whether the publications were justified and or made in circumstances of qualified privilege.
During the trial the plaintiff called 4 witnesses including herself while the defendant also called 4. Both counsel filed written submissions. I agree with the submissions by counsel for the defendant where he writes:-
“From the combined testimony [PW1
] above, it is evidently clear that there was a security operation in Mbarara
around the period of June – August 2002 in which the plaintiff’s husband was killed. It is clear that a search of the plaintiff’s house was carried out by security operatives… the plaintiff with 3 other (sic) male members of her family were arrested and taken to Mbarara
police station. It is evident that whilst this was going on several journalists were on site to witness these events… It is further evident that the plaintiff was detained in Mbarara
and was subsequently taken by Wembley