KAMPALA, 18 March 2021 – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has sued the Daily Monitor newspaper group, seeking damages for defamation.
The case is linked to a 23 February 2021 article in the paper alleging that members of Museveni’s “inner circle” had been secretly vaccinated against COVID-19.
The article cited a story ran by the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal 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”.
The petition by K and K Advocates, Museveni’s lawyers, argues that the Publication pushed for the paper article to be written claiming false and malicious information that defamed the Ugandan leader.
The article appeared when Uganda was still awaiting delivery of its first batch of more than 800,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
Museveni, in the petition to the court, argues that the contested article was given credence by being placed on the same page as a factual story on China offering Uganda 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines which featured a photograph of the president and a Chinese official.
The Ugandan leader says the paper ran the story although his press secretary, Don Innocent Wanyama, and a spokesperson for Uganda’s health ministry, Emmanuel Ainebyona, both dismissed the claims as false.
Museveni says the article was meant to send the message that he had abused the office of the presidency.
He said the paper was sending the message that the president had abdicated his duties and obligations to frontline health workers fighting the pandemic and other vulnerable groups.
The petition says the Daily Monitor refused to retract the story after he wrote to the paper the day after it published the article, advising that he will be left with no choice but sue if the article was not retracted.
Museveni is asking the court to issues seven orders, one of which could compel the Daily Monitor to pull down the article from its online sites, issue an apology on all its platforms, giving it the same prominence as the contested article, and using wording pre-agreed with the plaintiff.
The Ugandan leader is also asking the court to award him compensation in an unspecified amount of money in form of general and exemplary damages and costs to the suit with interest.
The Daily Monitor has responded to the suit through its lawyers, Nangwala, Resida, and Company Advocates, saying their article was not 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 Daily Monitor.
The paper added 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.