High Court issues gag order on Nation Media for ‘defamatory’ statements targeting SportPesa

By , K24 Digital
On Fri, 4 Feb, 2022 19:21 | 3 mins read
SportPesa emblem. PHOTO/COURTESY

Nation Media Group has been stopped from publishing any stories on SportPesa over alleged malice and intentionally defamatory content in a case where two of its senior reporters have also been sued in their individual capacity.

A former SportPesa chairman Paul Ndungu has also been sued by the betting brand’s rights holder in Kenya – Milestone Games Ltd - for contributing to the malicious and damaging content that cost the company loss of business opportunities, customers and reputation and for violating their constitutional rights. 

"It is therefore ordered that in the meantime, a temporary injunction be and is hereby issued restraining the respondents jointly and severally, either by themselves, their servants, and/or agents from writing, authoring, publishing, republishing, broadcasting, and/or referring to the applicants in any manner whatsoever adverse to the applicants' reputation and standing and which ridicules or portrays the applicants negatively in the eyes of the general public or otherwise defaming the applicants and specifically the publications published on Daily Nation (on specific dates)," the ruling by Justice Joseph Sergon read in parts.

Ndungú who fell out with his fellow shareholders when the brand was under Pevans East Africa, is seen in one of the clips by NMG stating that he was working with ‘criminals’ – allegations the plaintiffs stated are not supported by any evidence and which may cost the media house and republishers of the content such as YouTube and Google, billions in damages. 

The NMG has over the last few years published several stories on SportPesa which, according to the suit by the company, had no factual basis and were targeted at ruining the business. Consequently, the media house has been gagged until the case is heard and determined. 

The defendants were motivated by extreme malice and spite against the plaintiffs in writing, printing, uttering, publishing, republishing and broadcasting the offending words which were not only false but were also highly defamatory of the plaintiffs and were intended to malign the plaintiffs’ image and business standing and activities in Kenya and the entire world,” the plaintiffs stated.

SportPesa has indicated that 300 workers lost their jobs in Kenya as a direct result of the damages caused by the continued malicious reporting and publications of the articles by Nation Media Group.  

The company is seeking damages for the business lost due to the alleged malice, slander, libel as well as for the loss of future business opportunities and damages for the plaintiff’s rights among others.  It is one of the rare occasions where the journalists are also sued in their own capacity alongside the media house they represent.  

In court papers filed on January 31, 2022, and certified as urgent, the global betting brand through its current brand rights holder Milestone Games Ltd, is accusing the NMG of consistently defaming the brand and some of its directors, in a series of online, print and TV news pieces without following good journalistic practices and the established media code of conduct.   

“The said publications were malicious, defamatory and oppressive of the plaintiffs and were calculated and meant to and did actually degrade, injure, disparage the plaintiffs business, reputations, and exposed the plaintiffs to public hatred, ridicule, scandal, odium and kindred feelings among the members of the local and international business society, partners, possible investors and business associates in general thereby causing the plaintiffs loss of business, loss of trust in its brand name and loss of future business opportunities,” the plaintiffs asserted.  

Furthermore, the use of the plaintiffs’ images and pictures and or photos in their defamatory publications for commercial purposes is a violation of the plaintiffs’ right to privacy and dignity contrary to Articles 31, 28 and 40 of the Constitution.  

SportPesa, a renowned global brand that was once a major investor in local sports, said the publications by the defendants insinuated blame where none was ever established and it did so without any factual basis.  

It further accuses the eight defendants of using words in their various publications that were presented as facts when they were not.   

Last year, Google was ordered to pay $40,000 for defaming a lawyer in Melbourne, Australia over web searches that brought up his name in relation to associations with gangland figures. 

ABC.net reported that the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Melinda Richards determined that Google was a publisher in the case based on images by the Age Newspaper in 2004 where the lawyer ran a legal firm in Melbourne whose clients included gangland figures.