Facebook post costs Kenyan $50000

By Omondi Julius Odera, Nairobi, Kenya

A social media user in Kenya has been fined Kshs 5million for allegedly defaming a member of parliament on social media; in a ruling that will set a precedent on any future internet cases in Kenya. This comes at a time when most of the population is adopting social media as a tool to help put checks and balance on leaders.

The defendant, Peter Ekisa, in 2014 allegedly posted on his Facebook page that Arthur Odera, who is a member of parliament for Teso North western Kenya, had embezzled public funds. The post claimed that the Member of Parliament, who is aligned to the ruling Jubilee government, embezzled millions meant for Uwezo fund allocated to his constituency.

In his ruling, Justice Mbogholi Msagha noted that the post was baseless and defamatory in nature. As a result, the complainant had irreversible reputation damage. "The plaintiff is the Member of Parliament for Teso North and as such is a public figure with a wide following.  There is no doubt that the platform chosen by the plaintiff was intended to and did achieve the desire to be accessed by as many people as possible.  Indeed, the number of people who contributed to the exchanges is overwhelming to say the least.  The damage of character sustained by the plaintiff must have been enormous.  I saw and heard the plaintiff testify and I have no doubt that what he told the court is the truth,” noted Msagha in his judgment.

"In my judgment the plaintiff has proved his case against the defendant and is therefore entitled to damages.  I have already stated the plaintiff’s public standing in society and more particularly in the eyes of the people he represents in Parliament.  There is no doubt whatsoever that the allegations were serious and may have serious repercussion in his future political life," he added.

In the ruling which was made yesterday 11 April 2016 in Nairobi, Odera was awarded Ksh5 million. The MP was awarded Ksh. 2 million general damages, Kshs. 1.5 Million exemplary damages and Kshs. 1.5 Million aggravated damages making a total of Kshs. 5 million.

The MP told the court that he had tried to convince Ekisa to pull down the post voluntarily but his plea was rejected prompting him to seek legal redress. This earned the defendant more punishment from the judge."I have taken into consideration attendant factors herein including the refusal by the defendant to apologize or pull down the offending words from the Facebook platform," the judge noted.



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