Journalist wins libel case against Museveni

Ugandan journalist Timothy Kalyegira during a court appearance to answer libel charges.
Ugandan journalist Timothy Kalyegira during a court appearance to answer criminal libel charges.

By Jessica A Badebye in Kampala – Uganda

A Ugandan journalist has worn a criminal libel case brought against him by the government of President Yoweri Museveni. Timothy Kalyegira Nyakahuuma, an independent journalist, regained his freedom after a five-year battle with the Ugandan government in a criminal defamation trial in which he was accused of defaming the Ugandan leader.

Prosecution alleged that on 12th and 16th July 2010, Kalyegira unlawfully published in an online paper, The Uganda Records that President Museveni was responsible for the bomb blasts that occurred at Kyadondo Rugby grounds and Ethiopian Village Restaurant both in country’s capital Kampala and in the same year. The twin bombings that left over 70 people dead on 11th July, 2010 as they watched World Cup finals with Spain playing against Holland, have since been claimed as the responsibility of the Somali terrorist organisation Al Shabaab.

It is that Mr Kalyegira published the defamatory messages with ‘intent to defame the person of the president of Uganda’. According to the Ugandan laws, defamation or criminal libel is any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation and decreases the respect or confidence of that person. In a ruling made Wednesday by Grade One Kampala Magistrate Moses Nabende, charges brought against Mr Kalyegira were dismissed when the magistrate ruled there were ‘no strong and convincing reason’ to continue with the case.

Challenging the charges at his trial in the High Court in 2013, Kalyegira said the alleged defamatory statements had already appeared in a Cyber Space publication not envisaged in the law. This reasoning was rejected by the presiding Judge, Justice Lameka Mukasa, who argued that “any information typed on computers, posted and conveyed in cyber space to be read by whoever has access to the Internet, and can also be printed out for further circulation. The trial that started in 2010, ended Thursday when City Hall Court Grade I Magistrate, Moses Nabende dismissed criminal defamation charges against Kalyegira, arguing that government had failed to produce substantial evidence against him in court for the last five years.

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