Tuesday 22 May 2018

Blogger's identity kept under wraps as lawyer loses Facebook court appeal

Stock picture: Getty
Stock picture: Getty

Tim Healy

The identity of a blogger who made allegedly defamatory posts will be kept secret after a Ugandan lawyer lost his appeal.

The Court of Appeal said Fred Muwema's right to also bring defamation proceedings against a blogger who goes under the pseudonym TVO (Tom Voltaire Okwalinga) was outweighed by the risk to life or bodily integrity from the Ugandan authorities if his identity is disclosed.

Mr Muwema says he was defamed in a number of posts by TVO. He brought defamation proceedings and sought orders to have the posts taken down by Facebook Ireland, because it provides the social media service to all users outside of the US and Canada.

The posts were removed, and Mr Muwema also wanted the identity of TVO so that he could join him in the defamation proceedings against Facebook, which denies his claims.

Facebook opposed revealing his identity without a court order.

It argued there was evidence to show that if it was disclosed he would be exposed to arrest and ill-treatment at the hands of the Ugandan authorities.

TVO has posted material critical of the Ugandan government, which also wants to know his identity.

In the High Court last year, Mr Justice Donald Binchy refused to order identity disclosure, saying the threat to TVO was sufficiently serious that Mr Muwema's right to a good name had to take second place to TVO's right to life and bodily integrity.

Facebook had provided evidence from award-winning Ugandan human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, who said a man called Shaka Robert had been subjected to abuse of his rights by the Ugandan authorities for his online activism.

Mr Muwema said the High Court placed too much weight on the "hearsay affidavit evidence" of Mr Opiyo and of Facebook's own lawyer in Ireland, Jack Gilbert, and on an Amnesty International report.

But in his decision on behalf of the three-judge Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Michael Peart said he would not interfere with the High Court decision.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News