THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT KAMPALA
CIVIL SUIT NO. 415 OF 2002
HON. MOSES ALI :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: PLAINTIFF
THE MONITOR PUBLICATIONS LTD :::::::::::::: DEFENDANT
BEFORE: THE HON. MR. JUSTICE R.O. OKUMU WENGI.
The Plaintiff, a senior government official and politician sued the defendant Newspaper damages for defamation. The offensive article as contended by the plaintiff appeared in the paper’s issue of 9/2/2002. The title of the article was “Diabetic men more prone to importance (sic),” according to the Plaint. But what really disturbed the Plaintiff was the full size photograph accompanying the article. In the photograph an amiable plaintiff stood smiling and next to him was a rather hefty white man. Below the photograph were these words “People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from diabetes than their lean counterparts (file photo). There were no names of the plaintiff and no reference to him or even to the photograph in the body of the Article that gave a dire rendition of the devastation of diabetes disease and in particular the problem of impotence associated to it. According to paragraph 5 of the plaint it was contended:-
“5. The Plaintiff shall aver and contend that
Although the body of the story did not make particular mention of him the juxtaposition of the plaintiffs photograph, who is by usual standards a big man (no pun intended) meant and/or was understood to mean by innuendo or otherwise that the plaintiff is overweight, obese and impotent.
By the same story and picture in their natural and ordinary meaning, the defendant meant and was understood to mean that he was diabetic and impotent.”
The plaint further contended that the publication disparaged the plaintiff in his social standing was and false. That as a result the plaintiff had suffered injury to his character, credit and reputation and ridicule while the defendant reaped profit from it. They prayed for general and exemplary damages and an injunction restraining such further publications of the plaintiff.
The defendant denied liability, and, though admitting the publication, contended that it was not defamatory, was true in fact and was a fair comment. It prayed that the suit be dismissed. At the trial the publication was exhibited and 3 issues were framed namely:-
1. Whether the words pleaded and the picture published are defamatory of the plaintiff.
2. Whether the publication is fair comment made in public interest.
3. Whether the plaintiff is entitled to any remedies.
The Plaintiff testified on his own behalf and the defendant also called one witness.
On the first issue the Plaintiff complained that the title of the article the photograph and the caption below it made an offending combination. He said
“According to them I am one of them. They give wrong information to the public that the owners of that photograph are to be impotent. They mislead people of my health status of being impotent…”
He denied these implications:
“I am not diabetic. I am also not overweight because according to my height and personally I don’t feel overweight. I am equally not impotent.”
The plaintiff was incensed by any possible reference to past or present impotence. He said:-
“I have four wives and over thirty children. Unless Monitor says my women go out to look for these children… people were dismayed as to why I have hidden from them this information…”
He was able to provide several spin offs about his own children and wives getting disturbed about such a critical situation surrounding them. The witness told court that he is