President Yoweri Museveni has finally made good his threat and sued the Monitor Publications Limited for alleged defamation.
Through his lawyers of K and K Advocates, Museveni contends that on February 23, 2021, Monitor Publications Limited falsely and maliciously caused to be written, printed and published an article titled “Museveni 'inner circle' secretly given Covid jabs — US paper,” that defamed him.
The article quoted a story published by The Wall Street Journal, an American publication, which stated that “People close to President Museveni have reportedly received jabs of China Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine months ahead of health workers and vulnerable groups".
By the time of publishing the said article, Uganda was still awaiting the arrival of more than 800,000 COVID-19 Astrazeneca vaccines. In his application, Museveni says that he had dedicated over 50 years of his life to the liberation and emancipation of Uganda and Africa to which he has received abundant recognition for his exceptional leadership role in the empowerment of Ugandans and Africans.
He says that the contested article was maliciously and without due care, published and placed on the same page below a factual story "China gives Uganda 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine " with his photograph and a visiting Chinese official.
According to Museveni, this was meant to give more credence to false allegations by the publication. He also contends that although Daily Monitor contacted his press secretary, Don Innocent Wanyama and Health ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyona, who dismissed the claims as false but they still went ahead and published the defamatory story.
Museveni says that the article was understood by the right-thinking members of the society that he is dishonest and has abused his position as the Head of State.
"The plaintiff is a dishonest person who has used his position as President of the Republic of Uganda to secretly enable himself and people close to him to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, months ahead of health workers and other vulnerable groups", reads the petition.
He also says the article presented him as a schemer and conspirator who has engaged himself in dishonest activities of influence peddling and nepotism.
"It were understood to mean that the plaintiff has abdicated his duties and obligations to frontline health workers fighting COVID-19 and other groups that are vulnerable to the pandemic. The plaintiff cannot be trusted with the high office of the President of the Republic of Uganda," further reads the petition.
His lawyers say that the defamatory statements were widely circulated by the respondents among the public in Uganda and intentionally through the Daily Monitor online edition and social media platforms on Twitter and Facebook - reaching millions of people to shun him.
To prove this, Museveni has attached evidence from dozens of people who attacked and criticised him on various social media platforms, which he notes was purely calculative by the Monitor Publications Limited to make money and sales.
"See his eyes; the medicine is stronger than him” reads one Facebook comment by a one, Ben Kyeyo Rugaba on the story.
"Will the vaccine make him younger,” adds another from Christine Yeko.
Museveni also defends his suit, saying that he wrote to the Monitor Publication on February 24th indicating his intention to sue and demanding a retraction of the statement in vain.
He now wants the court to issue seven orders including one compelling Monitor Publication to pull down the said article online and publish an apology to him on all its platforms with the same prominence as the offending article and posts and with wordings agreed to by him in advance.
He also wants the court to issue a permanent injunction restraining Monitor Publications and their servants from publishing the defamatory words ever against him. He also wants to be compensated an unspecified amount of money in form of general and exemplary damages and costs of the suit with interest.
Monitor Publications Limited has responded to the suit through its lawyers of Nangwala, Resida and Company Advocates, saying their article wasn't defamatory.
"We have analyzed the questioned publication very carefully. The words quoted in your letter were actually not the publication but we're just part of the publication. The words quoted in their natural and ordinary meaning, even if untrue cannot pass the test of a defamatory publication" reads the March 3, 2021 response from the Monitor.
Monitor also adds that the article was published first as a rumour, which was already in the public domain and sought their views with intentions to dispel the rumour, which was not done by other publications.
The civil division High court registrar, Jameson Karemani has summoned Monitor to file their defence within fifteen days. The matter is before justice Musa Ssekaana, the head of the High court civil division pending fixing a hearing date.