By Mulengera Reporters
Ps Aloysius Bugingo has taken his war with Vision Group to another level by declaring a boycott on their media products. Bugingo has accordingly directed his Salt Media platforms to stop promoting Bukedde and New Vision newspapers during their morning press review segments. He says he has realized the two aren’t public media spaces (working to promote the public good and his much cherished NRM government image) as he thought.
“We shall be reciprocating professionalism and high standards by only reviewing Daily Monitor and several other international newspapers every morning. We consider that more empowering to our audiences and more informative than what is carried in Bukedde and New Vision,” Bugingo told a cheerful House of Prayer Church congregation at his Canaan Land near Makerere.
“I personally was at Kololo when His Excellence [M7] unveiled Uganda Vision 2040, a well-articulated government document I would ideally expect the government newspaper to serialize for their readers. I have never seen stuff about it in New Vision or Bukedde. Instead they are clearly out to destroy people’s families rather than being pace-setters for the rest of the media industry. I have been reading it for long thinking it’s a national newspaper. I have now stopped because they are specializing in trivial reporting and I hope you begin doing the same.”
Bugingo said the Salt Media morning crew will be reviewing Daily Monitor and international newspapers which are state-owned in their respective countries of origin.
The Bugingo ban deprives Vision Group of mileage on his Salt TV and its 6 sister radio stations broadcasting across the country covering areas like Mubende, Busoga, Mbale, Kampala and Fort Portal. He said he finds Monitor media practice acceptable because it’s “presented very professionally without distorting things.”
He told the congregation “I won’t be buying Bukedde and New Vision anymore and I hope you too will be doing the same.” He said his lawyers will be buying them every day to strengthen the defamation civil suit he has instructed them to file.
“National newspapers globally respect and build family values despite the need to grow their copy sales. How do you become so trivial and begin publishing views of people celebrating the death of someone’s children [Kibule]? How can the desire to sell and make money makes you to disrespect people during mourning?”
Quoting Prof Simeon Kayiwa, Bugingo urged members of his young congregation to always shun unproductive things and be careful not to fight other people’s proxy wars. Prof Kayiwa (the pastor) Bugingo referred to many years ago successfully sued a top Kampala newspaper which carried a series of articles falsely claiming his Namirembe-based Church was involved in ritual sacrifice and witch-craft practices. In the end, the media house paid him over Shs500m in damages and this was as part of the out of court settlement after the newspaper lawyers realized they had a bad case.
HIRES TOP FIRM
Available credible information shows that Bugingo has hired Kampala Associated Advocates (one of Kampala’s most prestigious law firms) to prosecute his defamation suit against both Bukedde and Red Pepper.
And a cream team of lawyers who have previously succeeded in prosecuting very complex cases has been put in place to pursue the two separate defamation suits. Besides the President, the top end law firm has represented many high profile clients including Sudhir Ruparelia whom they have caused to defeat Bank of Uganda and his other city adversaries in the numerous law suits.
The same firm has always represented President Museveni in all election petitions by Col Kizza Besigye. Being home to some of the country’s best legal brains, the Nakasero-based firm also represents many corporate organizations including MTN Uganda, UCC and majority of the banks in Kampala. They also represent many reputable international NGOs and agencies operating in Kampala.
Some of the firm’s top legal brains (whose expertise Bugingo could benefit from as he pursues the two media houses) include the much respected former Solicitor General Peter, Sr Citizen Elly Karuhanga, former Principal Judge Herbert Ntabgoba, former Solicitor General Joseph Matsiko and Dr. Kalumia.
There are other much younger lawyers like Elson Karuhanga (was key in the M7-Mbabazi petition), Bruce Musinguzi and Jet Tumwebaze who famously handled ex-EALA Speaker Margaret Zziwa’s case in the East African Court of Justice resulting into billions being awarded to her against the East African Community. Zziwa was protesting the manner in which she was ousted from being Speaker and Jet Tumwebaze succeeded in securing for her some good billions for her political pension.
Having enthusiastically embarked on the assignment, KAA has written to the two newspapers giving them strictly 7 days to retract the alleged defamatory articles and apologize or prepare to defend themselves in court.
Dated 21st May, the two notices of intention to sue disclose the stories Bugingo is suing the newspapers for having considered them false, malicious and defamatory. In the case of the Red Pepper, it was their story that indicated Bugingo had a “farm of kids” which lawyers say wasn’t only untrue but deliberately aimed as portraying him adulterous and thereby impeaching his character as a cleric with a huge following.
In Bukedde’s case, it was their story which enumerated 12 personal insults Bugingo allegedly directed at his wife Teddy using the church pulpit as the platform. The Bukedde story ran on 13th May just like that of Red Pepper.
The KAA lawyers quote Bugingo as corroborating to them that these two stories not only aimed at lowering his reputation before right thinking members of society but were also utterly untrue. That the impugned publications misled the public, defamed and injured Bugingo’s reputation, something that in law has to be atoned with an award of damages to the aggrieved party.
The lawyers, who continue scrutinizing subsequent publications in order to cash in on such, demand that the apology must be published by the two newspapers with same prominence as the earlier articles the man of God is complaining about.
Civil defamation suits is something that can be very intriguing to media houses because unlike criminal defamation where managers or editors get summoned at CIID headquarters Kibuli or even get detained (attracting for them publicity and public sympathy), being privately sued by a private citizen results into payment of colossal sums of money.
And at the end of litigation (should aggrieved party win), Court will order payment of damages which could be significant sums of money. It’s different with criminal defamation because even if the manager or editor gets convicted and sentenced to a jail term, the rest of the team can carry on with the media business until the colleague finishes his or her sentence and rejoins them.
It’s more complicated with civil defamation because the awarded damages could deplete the company’s coffers into total extinction especially these days where successful litigants often secure garnishment orders permitting them to access and take money on the company’s bank account (if any). The successful litigant could even attach the company property to recover the money awarded by court.
This exactly is what happened to Teddy Sezi Cheeye (RIP) whose Uganda Confidential news magazine survived state hostility but collapsed due to many defamation suits that were successfully filed against it by aggrieved citizens.
Eminent Ugandans who successfully sued Cheeye resulting into the demise of his famous Uganda Confidential included Winnie Byanyima, Gordon Wavamunno, Miria Matembe, Wasswa Birigwa and many others. In the end, Cheeye had nowhere to operate from as he had to be in hiding most of the time as court bailiffs would be looking for him to attach company properties.
To buy peace and some reprieve, Cheeye had to apply to court seeking to be declared bankrupt. Once declared bankrupt, one is presumed incapable of servicing their debts and unable to legally to transact any business. The Cheeye experience is something that ideally frightens any decision-maker at a media house whenever a notice of intention to sue in defamation is communicated. (For comments, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).