Ongwen’s Lawyer Ayena Odongo awarded 75m in privacy case over leaked nude pictures
he High Court at Kampala has friday ordered The Pepper Publications Ltd, the publishers of tabloid newspapers Red Pepper and Kamunye to pay to former Oyam South MP and Former LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen’s lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo 75m Uganda Shillings as compensation for violating his privacy and dignity when they published in 2016 leaked true photos of him having sex with an unnamed woman. Ayena Odongo, who was represented by celebrated human rights lawyer Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, was also awarded costs of the suit.
Justice Basaza-Wasswa ruled that the tabloids had engaged in an unjustified and insensitive style of publishing by running and circulating the secretly filmed cozy pictures.
” In my view, by publishing the impugned publications, it is apparent that the respondent ( The Pepper publications Ltd) unjustifiably committed acts of invasion, intrusion of privacy and degradation of the 1st Applicant (Ayena)’s dignity ” the Judge said.
Mr Ayena, who sued jointly with his wife, had also claimed that publishing the pictures undermined the stability of his family and livelihood as his clients would leave him thereby violating his right to family tranquility.
The Judge, however, did not approve of this argument and did not award the wife or their children any compensation.
In defense, the tabloids had sought to avoid liability for the violations by arguing the freedom of expression and of the press guaranteed by the Constitution permitted them to publish the nude pictures and there was nothing illegal about it.
Justice Basaza-Wasswa,however, dismissed the defense, holding that media freedom did not mean freedom to publish all sorts of content.
” Clearly, the respondent enjoys the rights and freedoms of the press and other media as guaranteed under Article 29 (1) (a) of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Press and Journalist Act. However, those rights are not limitless nor boundless ” She said.
” Can the press or other media be allowed to publish what they wish, however pornographic, subversive, prejudicial to others, xenophobic, or otherwise? The answer is No”
Phone calls to Mr Ayena Odongo for comment on the ruling went unanswered and had not been returned by press time.
The 75m award to Mr Ayena for infringement of privacy is the first of its kind in Uganda, and includes 15m in punitive damages as a deterrence from ” future wrongful conduct and insensitive illegal styles of publishing.”
The award will carry interest of 10% per year until paid in full.
Court also issued a permanent injunction against the tabloid, its directors, officers and agents or any other person under their instruction stopping them from further publication of the nude pictures.
Benjamin is a Digital Legal News Journalist (trained by Reuters) and digital media enthusiast who founded The Legal Reports website in January, 2020 while a fourth year law student at Makerere University school of law.
Prior to that, Benjamin used to write amateur blogs and some of his legal commentaries were published by the Daily Monitor and Independent Magazine - both leading publications in Uganda. He covers lawyers, law students, judges, judiciary, courts, law schools, and law firms.