Termination and dismissal

Kiirya Hillary v The New Vision Printing & Publishing Company Ltd & Anor (Cv. Cs. No. 144 Of 2007) ((Cv. Cs. No. 144 Of 2007)) [2009] UGHC 159 (28 August 2009);


Search Summary: 

The Plaintiff instituted this suit against both
defendants seeking general damages arising out
of a libel and for unlawful and unfair dismissal.

Both defendants denied liability, contending that
the plaintiff was never defamed as alleged or at
all, and that they were justified in the action taken

against the plaintiff. Defendants asserted that the
publication the subject of the suit, was factual, not
malicious and was within their right to publish.
The issues framed were:-
1. Whether the relationship between the
plaintiff and defendant amounted to a
contract of employment.
2. Whether the plaintiff as a freelance
reporter was an employee of the
3. Whether the discontinuation of the
plaintiff’s services by the defendants
amounted to lawful termination of the
working relationship between the plaintiff
and defendants.
4. Whether the Notice, Exhibit P1, is
defamatory of the plaintiff.
5. What are the remedies available to the
On 31.01.07, the defendants published of the
plaintiff, in The New Vision newspaper, his
photograph and, under it in broad print, the

“NOTICE The above named person Mr.
Hillary Kiirya is no longer a free-lance
Journalist for The New Vision. He is not
authorized to represent The New Vision
in any way or transact any business on
behalf of the company. Whoever deals
with him on matters relating to The New

Vision does so at his/her own risk.
The New Vision: Uganda’s leading
This court having appreciated the nature of the
law and the facts of this case finds that the
relationship that existed between the plaintiff and
the defendants is one that was for services and
not of services. The plaintiff offered his services,
as a freelance journalist, of searching for,
preparing and writing newsworthy articles which
he would submit to the defendants.
The answer to the second issue therefore was
that, as a freelance reporter, the plaintiff sold his
services and his articles to the defendants,
amongst others, by way of earning a living. His
relationship with the defendants was not under an
employment contract of services.

The third issue was, whether the discontinuation
of the plaintiff’s services by the defendants,
amounted to, lawful termination of the working
relationship, between the plaintiff and defendants.

It is not denied by the defendants that a working
relationship existed between the plaintiff and The
New Vision newspaper establishment. The
plaintiff was accredited by the newspaper as one
of its freelance reporters. He was issued with an
identity card to that effect. So the public, and
other third parties, dealt with the plaintiff on the

basis that, he was a freelance journalist,
accredited to The New Vision newspaper. By
reason of the relationship, plaintiff had access,
even though at his cost, to the use of the
defendants’ premises and the already stated

Headnote and Holding: 

Court held that the defendants, on their part, also
at a cost, had access to the plaintiff’s articles and
the opportunity to publish them, once they
determined them to be newsworthy.

The fact that this relationship, did not amount to
an employment contract of service, as already
held in answer to the first and second issues, did
not, and does not mean, that the parties, or
anyone of them to the relationship, was at liberty
to act contrary to the law with regard to it.
This court comes to the conclusion that the
defendants in terminating the working relationship
that existed between them and the plaintiff denied
the plaintiff of knowing the exact allegations
against him that he had to answer and also failed
to offer an opportunity to the plaintiff to be heard.
Plaintiff actually was never heard in defence.

The answer to the third issue was that the
discontinuation by the Defendants of the working
relationship that existed between the plaintiff, as a
freelance Journalist, and the defendants, as ones
who, at a fee, were regularly taking some of his

articles that were newsworthy, amounted to an
unlawful termination.


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