Justice Musa Ssekaana has awarded the Tooro Kingdom Queen Mother, Best Kemigisa Shillings 83 million in damages arising from a defamation suit she filed against The Redpepper Publications Limited. The suit stemmed from an article published by the Red pepper titled “Tooro Queen Mother Arrested in USA” on May 24th 2012.
Through her lawyers, Candia D.W Oundo Advocates, Kemigisa argued that the article carried malicious statements indicating that she had been arrested in United States in possession of fake dollars. She also said RedPepper had maliciously wrote that her passport had been confiscated as the Federal Police investigates the circumstances, under which she came to possess the counterfeits worth USD 5M (about Shillings 18.5 billion) .
She also told court that a day after Redpepper authored another story titled “Queen Mother still Missing” where they claimed that they had exclusively established that Kemigisa was briefly detained by Federal Police in the US, adding that her arrest would cause a diplomatic embarrassment since she is a member of Diplomatic Community.
Kemigisa also alleged that on June 6th, 2012, Redpepper again published another story titled “Tooro Queen Mother Arrest Details Emerge” on its front page. “Now we have established that the wedding hangs in balance due to the scandal but efforts are being made to have the Queen released”, Kemigisha quoted a line in the story.
She contended that the said statements were false and intended to malign her good repute and her social standing. She informed court that the defamatory statements made her to suffer hatred, contempt and embarrassment, which lowered her standing in the eyes of right thinking members of society generally and her peers in particular.
She asked court to compel Redpper to compensate her Shillings 1 billion, apologise to her and also issue a permanent order restraining the publication against ever defaming her again. During the hearing, Redpepper through their lawyers of Okua Associates Advocates asked court to dismiss the case, saying the Queen Mother refused to appear in Court for cross examination on the veracity of her allegations.
They also argued that one would be alarmed if they only read the titles of the articles without reading details of the stories. They argued that if one read the story beyond the headlines they would have found that the story was professional coverage of an event as relayed by Uganda Intelligence and security forces.
The Publication also argued that the remedies Kemigisa was seeking were excess and exposed her true intentions of unjustly wanting to enrich herself and abuse the due process to shield her from further public scrutiny. Redpepper said that the Shillings One billion Kemigisa was demanding was extortionist when compared to other recent awards in similar cases.
Delivering his judgment on Friday, Justice Musa Ssekaana stated that he had reviewed the evidence and submissions of both parties and resolved that Kemigisa suffered damage to her reputation. He however, said the reward of Shillings one billion was exorbitant as argued by Red Pepper.
He therefore granted her general damages of Shillings 72 million and Shillings 11 million in punitive damages as a punishment to Redpepper not to repeat a similar mistake and discourage them from publishing any further defamatory statements against the Queen Mother.
He said the awards will attract 10 percent interest from the day of the judgment until final payment is made. Justice Ssekana directed Redpepper to apologise to the queen mother in a period not not less than three weeks, saying the apology should be made twice in one week.
He also issued a permanent injunction against Redpepper, its agents and assignees from publishing defamatory statements against Kemigisa. Both Kemgisha and Redpper haven’t yet commented on the judgment. The Queen mother couldn’t be reached for a comment as calls to her known number went unanswered.
Johnson Musinguzi Byarabaha, one of the Directors for Redpepper Publications Limited told URN that he wasn’t aware of the judgment, saying he was hearing news from our reporter. He also said he doubts their lawyer was in court, saying he needs to find out on the judgment.