Kampala High Court has asked The Observer to defend itself within 15 days after former Electoral Commission officials, Jotham Taremwa and Sam Rwakoojo, sued the newspaper for defamation.
“Should you fail to file a defence in the suit on or before the date, the plaintiff may proceed with the suit and judgement may be given in your absence,” the court summons received by The Observer on December 4, read in part.
Represented by Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA), Rwakoojo and Taremwa claim The Observer on September 16 “published in the first national language and with wide national and international circulation and readership both print and internet a false, sensational and defamatory article “Wave of change at Electoral Commission’.
In the article, it was alleged Taremwa and Rwakoojo were fired by President Museveni for “undermining Justice Byabakama ever since he took over office in 2017.”
It also was alleged that the former EC officials had borrowed huge sums from the staff Sacco, which they refused to pay; and that their sacking came at the height of several petitions to President Museveni about corrupt tendencies of the said officials.
The newspaper also alleged that Taremwa was whisked away from his office by security operatives and that he was possibly “under house arrest as investigations into the corruption here (EC) go on.”
However, in their plaint seen by ChimpReports, Taremwa and Rwakoojo say they “voluntarily resigned their offices from the EC” and were “never manhandled by any security operatives at the point of resigning their offices.”
They further state that “all the monies that they have ever borrowed from the EC SACCO were repaid long before they resigned from the commission.”
Taremwa, who served as Spokesperson of EC, previously worked as Public Relations officer at Parliament.
Rwakoojo served as the Secretary of the Commission for over 20 years, supervising the conduct of three presidential elections and dozens of bi-elections. He also served as MP Lwemiyaga County.
Both argue that the publication of the articles “have greatly damaged their reputation and standing in community” as they had “distinguished careers in Uganda with national and international attention and focus.”
The officials claim the publishers didn’t crosscheck their facts with the plaintiffs to establish whether the allegations were true and that they were “presented in highly sensational terms under the eye-catching headlines, “Electoral Commission deal that sank 4 bosses’; EC Sackings: New details revealed”, “Forced to sign already drafted resignation letters” and “Bosses fired at night by telephone.”
Rwakoojo and Taremwa said the conduct of the newspaper was “oppressive, malicious and motivated by profit making through sales” and now want damages and costs of the suit.
They also want a permanent injunction restraining the newspaper from “further publishing or causing to be published the said or similar words defamatory” to them.