Libel awards need to be consistent - The Star

Erratic libel awards are leading to self-censorship by fearful media. Those falsely defamed by the media deserve compensation, but the awards should be consistent

Last week a claimant was awarded Sh3 million in a case against Radio Africa (See below).

A caller had telephoned Kiss FM and complained that a lawyer fought with him in a bar. The presenter quickly took the caller off air. Radio Africa tried to settle with the plaintiff but he was not interested. The caller testified in court that the lawyer had indeed fought with him but the judge said she did not believe him.

The award of Sh3 million appears excessive. The Kiss presenter did not indulge the caller. It was the caller's word against the lawyer. It was a fleeting radio broadcast, unlike a permanent print publication. And an attempt to settle normally mitigates damages.

Moreover the benchmark award is Sh6 million given to Chief Justice Evan Gicheru for a more grievous libel. This case was not half as bad as Gicheru's.

The Judiciary should lay down clear rules for calculating libel awards, based on the reach of the media outlet, the extent of the libel, and the social standing of the claimant.

Kiss FM to pay lawyer Sh3m for defamation - By Pamela Chepkemei

KISS 100 FM has been ordered to pay a city lawyer Sh3 million damages for defamation.

Lawyer Nicholas Sumba had sued the station for defamation.

But judge Abida Ali Aroni ordered that the damages will be jointly paid by a caller, Thomas Okal, and the radio station.

Okal is said to have called the radio station to complain about his lawyer Sumba seven years ago in a programme called People's Parliament.

In the conversation aired live, Okal accused the lawyer of assaulting him after terminating his services.

He told the then presenter Jimmy Gathu that Sumba had been assisting him in demanding payment from his former employer.

He also accused the lawyer of colluding with officers at the Central police station. Sumba denied the allegations, saying he did not assault his former client.

Justice Abida Ali Aroni said Okal did not prove the assault.

She said there were no medical records showing that Okal was assaulted.

The lawyer accused Okal of portraying him as corrupt and violent.

He had asked the court to award him Sh5 million in damages.

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