Judiciary Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana has won a defamation case in civil court against Monitor Publications Limited (MPL), publishers of Daily Monitor and its weekend editions.
The High Court in Kampala ruled that Mr Bigirimana should be paid Shs450 million at an interest rate of 10% from the date of judgement to the date of payment on both general and punitive damages. The court also ordered MPL to grant the official an apology on the front page of the newspaper for a period of two weeks at least two times a week.
The court further issued a permanent injunction restraining MPL and co-accused from publishing further defamatory statements about Mr Bigirimana.
Judge Musa Ssekaana, head of the Civil Division of the High Court, made the decision on 10 December 2021 after finding that Monitor Publications and four others jointly published 15 “twisted and skewed” articles between 2012 and 2017.
The judge ruled that the articles were crafted in a manner that portrayed Mr Bigirimana as the key suspect in a financial scam at the Office of the Prime Minister, where he served as permanent secretary at the time.
The four others are MPL’s managing director and editor-in-chief, Sunday Monitor editor, and reporter Andrew Bagala.
PS Bigirimana filed the defamation suit in 2017. He claimed that between 2012 and 2015, the respondents continuously made numerous malicious, spiteful, untrue, and defamatory publications against him in the Daily Monitor, Saturday Monitor, and the Sunday Monitor.
To back his claims, Mr Bigirimana presented 15 of the 42 articles that were written around that time reportedly portraying him as “a smart criminal who was untouchable in any circumstances, an embattled civil servant who made illicit expenditure on OPM funds, a person who thrives on statehouse’s pampering and patronage, obstructs police investigations and above all, a liar.”
The articles bore titles such as: “Auditors target Bigirimana in cash probe”; “Bigirimana’s wife acquires Shs250m Mercedes Benz”; “Treasury Officials accuse OPM PS of covering money scam”; “MPs Order Government to remove Bigirimana”; “Denmark Warns of Aid Cut over OPM Scandal”; “MPs give ultimatum over PS Bigirimana”, and “Corruption Ledger”.
The articles were generally about how more than Shs500 billion in donor money meant for northern Uganda’s post-war reconstruction allegedly got lost under the watch of Mr Bigirimana as permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, the government office overseeing the programme.
Mr Bigirimana said that the media house never reached out to him to verify the allegations.
In their defence, the MPL lawyers James Nangwala and Diana Kwesiga argued that the articles were not defamatory because they served a social, moral, and legal purpose.
Image by Daily Monitor