November 9, 2020

Journalist Wins Landmark Court Case, Awarded Compensation

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The Commercial Court of Rwanda

Commercial Court in Kigali has thrown out a case in which Flash TV journalist Didas Niyibizi had been accused of causing bankruptcy of a local payments firm.

The court dismissed the case and ordered the accusing firm Gabanyirizwa company Ltd (GBC Ltd) to pay the journalist Rwf 500,000 as compensation instead.

The case by GBC Ltd was filed earlier this year, but goes back August 2019. At the time, Flash TV ran a story in which four young women accused Rukundo Samuel, company founder and managing director of refusing to pay them.

In the story, the women said Rukundo demanded for sex before payment, which all refused. The women gave graphic details of their personal encounters with Rukundo.

One of them revealed, with WhatsApp messages, that Rukundo even came to her house deep in the night. The woman said she had agreed to have sex with him because she desperately needed the money.

However, when Rukundo arrived at her house, he told her they need to have sex that night and a second time, before he paid her. In her interview, she narrated that she refused and chased him out of her house.

The same night, he sent her different messages vowing that she had made a big mistake which she would regret.

Flash TV also interviewed Rukundo for the same story, where be vehemently denied the allegations by the women. In subsequent other media interviews, he said business competitors were behind the Flash TV story to destroy him.

In the case filed with the Commercial Court, GBC Ltd lawyers said as a result of the story, it lost business and went bankrupt. The company closed because it couldn’t get any more clients.

According to unclear detail, GBC Ltd was a payments company, whose GBC card was used by different individuals and companies to pay for services. From one of its promotional messages, GBC Ltd said clients paying for services like fuel, or medical cover and household items, would get up to 20% discount with its cards.

The women accusers said they were sales agents of GBC Ltd, each paid Rwf 100,000 monthly. By the time of the Flash TV story, they had different arrears, some with two months.

GBC Ltd was seeking Rwf 81million ($82,000) from the journalist Niyibizi as compensation for lost business caused by his story.

In the final ruling issued on Friday last week November 6, the Commercial Court Nyarugenge Division dismissed the case filed by GBC Ltd, saying the Flash TV story was on Rukundo Samuel as an individual not the company.

The court also said the journalist was an employee of Flash TV and didn’t make the choice alone to run the story. Also, the court ruled, the story had both the accusers (the four women) and Rukundo himself – which made it balanced as required by journalistic ethics.

The court also dismissed the quest for compensation by the company, instead ordering that the firm actually pays the journalist.

The court said if the company doesn’t pay the journalist, its property will be attached to recover the money to compensate the reporter.

The Commercial Court ruling, though not widely covered by local media, is huge.

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