Sunday August 22 2010

CBS floors government in court battle

By Lydia Mukisa

Kampala High Court has dismissed a counter claim in which the Attorney General had asked CBS Radio to pay the government aggravated damages for inconveniences caused as a result of the radio’s unwarranted acts.

Presiding judge Vincent Zehurikize on Friday dismissed the case in which the government accused the radio of alleged breach of the Electronic Media Act.
The Judge dismissed government’s counter suit with costs to the embattled radio that was closed in September last year following city riots in which over 20 people died.

Justice Zehurikize ruled: “The fact that the government received complaints from the general public and security agencies do not give it a right to sue on behalf of the citizens but it can institute criminal proceeding against those who breached the law as a way to protect the citizen.”

The judge said every citizen under the Constitution has a right to sue when he or she is offended and that it is the duty of the government to protect that right by establishing courts where the citizens’ grievances can be resolved.

The case arose at the end of last year after more than 100 employees of CBS radio sued the government, seeking orders to have the station re-opened, arguing that its closure was unjustifiable and had rendered them jobless.

The employees are seeking over Shs3 billion as compensation. The Broadcasting Council shut CBS over allegations that it had incited the public to riot.
However, the government had filed a counter claim seeking an order compelling the radio to pay damages for allegedly mobilising and inciting the public into violence and rebelling against lawful authority.
The government had alleged that CBS radio allowed its broadcasting licence to be used for mobilising and inciting the public and sowing seeds of hatred.

Attorney’s defence
Ms Patricia Mutesi, the Principal State Attorney, had defended the counter claim saying it was filed on behalf of the public.
She told court that the Attorney General has a duty to defend the public’s right to enjoy law and order.
“I wish to inform court that the counter-suit is brought on behalf of the general public, and not any special class of people, not even any government institution,” Ms Mutesi said. But her argument did not yield good fruits for her.