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Family of lawyers wins defamation millions against Citizen TV

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The High Court in Eldoret has ordered the Royal Media Services (RMS) to pay a law firm based in the town Ksh12 million for a defamatory broadcast.

Ibrahim Onyinkwa 70, his son Dennis Onyinkwa and daughter Everlyne Onyinkwa, who are partners in a family law firm Onyinkwa and Company Advocates, filed a suit against RMS on February 1, 2011, accusing the media house of airing a news feature they alleged to be false and defamatory.

The Onyinkwas, in their plaint, stated the news feature about the loss of Ksh59 million in the cemetery saga aired consecutively on March 9, 10 and 11, 2010 in the 9.00 PM Citizen TV prime time news item by reporter Olivia Oketch implicated alleged 15 beneficiaries of the lost money, including them, was false.

The plaintiffs say the report by RMS showed that William Mayaka Onyinkwa and Company Advocates benefited with Ksh4 million in the cemetery scandal, a highlight they stated portrayed them as thieves and corrupt individuals hence damaging to their reputation.

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They further argued that the choice of words in the report was calculated to damage their otherwise good reputation and that of their law firm, which is a core source of their income hence affecting their business. Morgan Omusundi, counsel for the plaintiffs, argued that the family and the law firm had been hurt by the report, citing disregard by the media house to investigate and verify all the information to indeed establish if his clients were linked to the scandal.

“The defendant also refused to apologize or correct the wrongfully aired information despite my clients making a formal demand requiring the media house to do so in a letter dated March 16, 2010,” Omusundi argued.

In their defence, RMS stated that the information broadcast on the said date was accurate in line with documents acquired from the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC). RMS further denied having received a demand by the plaintiff to make a formal apology to correct any information aired inadvertently and sought that the matter be dismissed from the court.

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Lady Justice Cecilia Githua, in her judgment, stated that the defendant had aired the information implicating the law firm in the corruption scandal without caring to establish the truth through clarification. The Judge also said the defendant did not care to make an apology or correction of the information by simply ignoring the demand letter and is liable for defamation.

“I award the first plaintiff Ksh6 million and an additional Ksh14, 384 for damages which will attract current interest rates, the second and third plaintiffs are also awarded Ksh3 million each as a global sum, each one with separate interests and the defendant shall bear the costs of the suit,” read Githua in the April 17, 2017 Judgement.

RMS has however filed a notice of appeal and an order to stay the effecting of the judgment though the appeal is not yet admitted in court. Mr Omusundi was yesterday (Wednesday) in court seeking to tabulate the cost of the suit but the matter was adjourned to July 11, 2017.

[crp]

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