Former Uganda Bureau of Statistics Executive Director, Francis Mashate has dragged Vision Group CEO Robert Kabushenga and one of the company’s titles to court and is now seeking Shs1bn in damages over alleged defamation.
According to court papers seen by this publication, Mashate who also serves as Bamasaba Cultural Institution’s Prime Minister, alleges through his lawyers of KSMO Advocates, that The Saturday Vision, on December 22nd, 2018, published reports that were defamatory, malicious and injured his good reputation.
“The plaintiff’s action against the Defendants, jointly, and/or severally, is for recovery of general and exemplary damages for libel, a declaratory order that by publishing the impugned materials about the Plaintiff, the Defendants are practicing irresponsible and unprofessional journalism at the expense of the Plaintiff’s reputation and good name; a permanent injunction restraining the Defendants from further publication of similar defamatory statements against the Plaintiff, interest on all pecuniary awards and the costs of this suit,” particulars of the case filed last month in the High Court, Kampala, reads in part.
The suit adds, “The defendants published the article with malice and an intention to tarnish the name of the plaintiff. The defamatory publication depicted and portrayed the plaintiff as a thief, cheat criminal, racketeer, corrupt person, Mafioso, unpatriotic, unworthy leader, money launderer, gangster leader, international crook, heister, thug, dubious person and all such unsavoury descriptions of a dishonest and criminally minded person.”
In the publication that is set to cause the industrial area based media house problems, the paper alleged that Mashate and others are under probe by the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) over alleged money laundering.
The story titled, “ISO PROBES SHS250B MONEY LAUNDERING,” alleged that Mashate together with Paul Bambata Musinguzi, Abigail Hanan aka Ahmed Hana, were involved in a syndicate of government officials that would receive money from abroad after it disappeared from government coffers.
“The source noted that unscrupulous high profile government officials were siphoning billions of shillings, which they wire to accounts of shell companies out of the country, before the money returns to Uganda,” the story claimed.
The story further claimed that Mashate heads the group while Hanan helps in the transfer of an IT specialist and that the three had been arrested.
The publication goes on to give details of the banks where the monies were wired from in the United States and in Uganda, the instalments banked, the companies involved, the beneficiaries, the arrests made, persons involved based abroad, the countries where money is wired to and from, and the responses of officials from government and private entities who all dismissed the story as fake, untrue or could not confirm its veracity.
In his suit, Mashate contends that Vision Group went ahead with publication of the said story despite advice from the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) which had informed them that the documents they had against him and other officials were fake. He adds that Vision Group abandoned all standard professional rules that govern journalism in publishing the said story.
“The defendants were unprofessional in not conferring with the plaintiff before publishing the unresearched and baseless content. The plaintiff further avers that by defendants’ wide coverage, and reference to the publication by other media, the plaintiff was contacted by many people who know him; his family, friends, the wider community and business associates about the truthfulness of the article and some were worried about his life and freedom since the article depicts him as a criminal,” the suit adds.
Mashate now wants Vision Group to pay him a cool shs1bn in damages to his name and reputation. He is also asking court to place a permanent injunction against Kabushenga and the whole New Vision restraining them from further publication of similar defamatory statements against him.
In January, KSMO Advocates, served Vision Group with a notice of intention to sue but this it appears, fell on deaf ears.
“Our instructions are firstly, to demand that you cause to publish an apology retracting wholly the defamatory article on Page 1 of yout newspaper the content of which has to be approves by our client before publication, and further, that you pay Ushs. 1, 000, 000, 000/= (Uganda Shillings One Billion Only) as punitive and general damages to atone for the defamation and the legal expenses to be mutually negotiated. Should the above not be met by you in the next ten days, our client shall proceed to file a civil suit against you, jointly and/or severally for defamation,” the notice received by New Vision legal department on the 7th of January reads.
It’s not clear when the case will come to court for mention, however, what’s clear is that the industrial based media house will have to answer why they abandoned professional journalism standards to ‘defame’ Mashate, according to his suit.