The Irish high court has accepted a plea by social media giant, Facebook to protect the identity of Ugandan social media activist Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO) from Ugandan lawyer, Fred Muwema saying exposure of the latter would pose risk to his life.
In a judgement delivered on Wednesday February 8th, Justice Binchy argued that revealing TVO’s identity would expose him to harassment by the government of Uganda which he strongly opposes, according to his social media posts.
Mr Muwema had sued Facebook over TVO’s claims that he had received a sum of Shs900 million delivered by former Information and National Guidance Minister Jim Muhwezi to stage a break in at his offices in Kololo so that the state could tamper with evidence of his client John Patrick Amama Mbabazi.
Muwema was one of the lead counsels in the case filed by Mr Mbabazi contesting the declaration of Yoweri Museveni as the duly elected President of Uganda and the said evidence was meant to be used in the case.
“It is somewhat difficult for the court to make an assessment as to the extent of the danger that would be posed to TVO if his identity is revealed. It is fair to say however that there is consistency in the reports of Freedom House and US Department of State Human Rights Report on Uganda as well as Amnesty International all of which express concern about the freedom of expression and assembly,” Justice Binchy wrote in the judgement.
Defamatory content against Muwema to be deleted
The judge however, ordered Facebook to have TVO pull down the defamatory content 14 days from the delivery of the judgment short of which Mr Muwema would be allowed to make a fresh application to the court to have his identity revealed.
“I will do so on a conditional basis, the defendant has the means to communicate with TVO. TVO should be notified that unless the offending postings are removed within 14 days from the date of delivery of this judgment, then the plaintiff will be entitled to renew his application for Norwich Pharmacal relief which will be duly granted. The defendant should notify TVO forthwith,” he said.
A Norwich Pharmacal order is a court directive for the disclosure of documents or information.
TVO has since election time been at the forefront of exposing scams in government, private sector and preaching the opposition gospel through his controversial Facebook posts, most of which have sparked war between the alias and strong Ugandan figures.
Renowned investigative journalist, Andrew Mwenda recently named three people whom he suspected to be running the TVO account, naming Robert Shaka who lives in Kampala, Uganda; Abbey Semuwemba, who lives in UK and Henry Lugasira who lives Canada although the real identity of TVO remains unknown.