Saturday 24 September 2016

Ugandan lawyer fails in High Court bid to get Facebook to take down alleged defamatory postings

Aodhan O Faolain

Published 25/08/2016 | 15:04

Facebook (stock picture)
Facebook (stock picture)

A UGANDAN lawyer has failed to secure a High Court order directing Facebook Ireland to take down alleged defamatory postings about him from its service.

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Fred Muwema claimed he was defamed in postings by a blogger called "TVO" who accuses him of accepting a 900 million Uganda shillings (€237,000) bribe and Facebook has a duty to ensure it is removed as publisher of the material.

The High Court
The High Court

Mr Muwema strongly denies the bribe claim and also denies another claim he was involved in a break-in in at his own office.

His injunction application was brought here because Ireland is Facebook's headquarters for its service outside the US and Canada.

Facebook denied it has a duty to remove the material particularly in circumstances where much of it is available across the internet by simply Googling "Muwema" and "bribe". 

It had agreed to provide the lawyers with any details it holds in relation to the identities and location of the persons who operate the TVO Facebook page.

In his judgment Mr Justice Donald Binchy said he was dismissing the application for various orders sought by Mr Muwema.

The orders, including one compelling Facebook to take down the page, sought can only be granted in circumstances where it is clear the defendant had no defence that is likely to succeed. 

However the Judge said Facebook has a defence to the claim of innocent publication as provided for in section 27 of the 2009 Defamation Act. 

The Judge said the action should also be refused because it would serve no useful purpose. During the hearing evidence was given to the court that the same and other damaging allegations about Mr Muwema had appeared on other internet sites and publications. 

Lawyers for Mr Muwema had argued the injunction would not affect Facebook's freedom of expression, and had been brought to preserve his reputation.

He needed a court order because despite the bringing of legal proceedings, the blogger had posted more defamatory material.

Material was on other parts of the internet because Mr Muwema had to give a interviews to a Ugandan media denying the allegations.   He had no choice but to bring the proceedings.

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