Nominated Senator and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party Deputy Secretary General Agnes Zani was awarded Sh6 million in damages in a defamation suit.
Court of Appeal judges Roselyn Nambuye, Wanjiru Karanja and Sankale Kantai, on 23rd December 2019 set aside the findings of trial judge Lucy Njuguna who initially dismissed her suit on grounds that the article carried by Standard Digital site was neither malicious nor defamatory.
The appellate judges said it was wrong for the judge to dismiss the suit in the face of all the evidence adduced. They awarded Zani Sh5 million in general damages and Sh1 million for aggravated damages
In the case, Zani sued the Standard Group following an article that appeared on March 9, 2014 under a headline “Revealed: The inside story of ODM’s Men in Black.”
The article talked of organized chaos and spoke of three senior party officials from Nairobi who had met two days before the ODM elections and assembled an army of 100 youths to disrupt voting and prevent the Hassan Joho-Ababu Namwamba team from taking over leadership.
The article as analyzed by the appeal judges spoke of the top leadership of ODM party organizing some men to disrupt elections Joho and Ababu were going to win.
The article gave details of how the chaos was organized and how the Men in Black were appointed, dressed up in new uniforms and given strict instructions on how to disrupt the polls should the desired result not be achieved.
Zani argued before the trial judge that the article defamed her. She testified that the writing, printing and publishing of the words by SG was in reckless disregard of whether or not they were true.
She averred that the natural meaning of the words was understood to mean she was unethical, unprofessional leader who condoned unethical and criminal practices.
The article, she said, meant that she was a woman leader who connived with male criminal suspects deep in the night to plan and facilitate the commission of criminal and illegal activities.
Zani argued that she had suffered monumental distress, mental agony, anguish and very substantial loss and damages in her various roles in the society. She said SG had failed and refused to publish an apology.
SG in response claimed the article was published for the benefit of the public and with no malice or any intention against Zani.
It was her case that she did not organize the chaos that took place at Kasarani sports stadium where elections of ODM party were disrupted. It was also her case that she did not organize men in black who disrupted those elections.
According to the appellate judges, the words published were defamatory of Zani and all elements of defamation were proved.
They said the words in the article directly associated Zani as the organizer or as a member of the shadowy group called Men in Black whose sole purpose was to disrupt elections for the said party.
“SG was duty bound to find out from Zani her position in regard to the Men in Black who disrupted the elections. The publication of the article was prominent and covered two pages of the Sunday paper. It had her photo and gave a detailed description of what was alleged to have occurred that day. It is therefore not true as found by the trial judge that the article was not conspicuous,” they said
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