Brookside loses defamation battle against Nyali MP Mohamed Ali

Nyali Member of Parliament Mohamed Ali. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Milk company Brookside has lost its defamation case against Nyali Member of Parliament Mohamed Ali.

Brookside had, in July this year, sued the MP over remarks he made in March alleging that it was exploiting farmers.

The case was the first for a company to seek the court's interpretation of its constitutional rights to do business, and not to be subjected to commercial harm.

The matter was filed before High Court Judge Antony Mrima.

Brookside had argued that the allegations by Ali were meant to incite public resentment against it.

Brookside, in its papers, claimed that on March 3, 2022, during a political rally in Nyeri County, the legislator said the company buys milk from farmers at Sh20 and thereafter boils it before selling it to suppliers at Sh120.

Brookside said the statement was false, and that it violated its rights under Article 20, Article 33 (2) (d), and Article 27 of the Constitution.

Article 20 of the Constitution provides that every person has a right to enjoy fundamental freedoms on the bill of rights.

Article 33 (2) (d) limits the freedom of expression by providing that this right does not extend to the advocacy of hatred. The Article states that hatred constitutes ethnic incitement, verification of others, or incitement to cause harm or is based on any ground of discrimination specified in Article 27.

Article 27 stipulates that all persons are equal before the law and have a right not to be discriminated against.

"Ali's statements were meant to and did cause public resentment against the petitioner, its business practice, and the products which the petitioner manufactures and sells as part of its business. The statement was meant to and did cause economic and commercial harm to the petitioner and its business," Brookside said in its suit papers filed by Shapley Barret and Company Advocates.

In the court documents, Brookside also dismissed Ali's allegations that former President Uhuru Kenyatta's family owns the firm 100 per cent.

Brookside's Company Secretary Jacob Ombongi, in his supporting affidavit, said the firm has both local and international shareholders.

Ombongi said that international shareholders own 40 per cent of Brookside, while local shareholders, including the Kenyatta family, own 60 per cent of the company's shares.

Ali denied all the allegations and was acquitted of the charges after the court said Brookside couldn't prove the economic loss it had suffered as a result of the MP's March 2022 remarks.