Journalists’ Body Gives Govt Ultimatum to Re-open Media Houses

The Uganda Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ-U) is giving government an ultimatum of up to Wednesday to re-open the closed media houses.

The closure of Monitor and Red Pepper Publications entered its seventh day on Monday as police continue to occupy them under the pretext of looking for a letter written by General David Sejusa, the Coordinator of Intelligence Services. KFM and Dembe, two radio station owned by the Nation Media Group, the mother company that owns Daily Monitor, also remain closed.

Sejusa, in his letter whose contents were first published by Daily Monitor on May 7th, alleges a plan by President Yoweri Museveni to eliminate people opposed to his son’s rise to the presidency. The first son, Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba, now heads the Special Forces.

Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebagala, the HRNJ-U national Coordinator notes that the government has consequently resorted to restrictive and prohibitive measures. These include draconian legislation, criminalizing media work, questioning, prosecution and imprisonment of journalists.

Ssebagala adds that government has eroded media rights and freedoms in the name of national security in a deliberate show of might over and above reason.

To this effect Ssebagala argues that government has deliberately failed to appreciate that a free and independent press is essential to building transparent and well informed society capable of making timely and informed decisions.

This according to the journalists’ human rights group violates the constitutionally granted right to communicate as well as the right to receive, impart and disseminate information.

It is for this reason that Ssebagala says if the police fails to heed to the court order which asks them to vacate the media houses in question within one day, they have resolved to sue the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kaihura and the Attorney General Peter Nyombi, for defying lawful orders.

Likewise if the Uganda Communications Commission does not switch on KFM and Dembe FM within one day, HRNJ-U has decided to drag it to court as well for arbitrarily closing down these stations.

The Monitor Publications premises in Namuwongo, Kampala and the Red Pepper offices in Namanve, along Jinja Road, remain silent as police continue to guard it as a crime scene since the raid and closure of the media houses on May 20.

Earlier today two Red Pepper staff were arrested as they protested the continued closure in front of Parliament. Backed by Rubaga North MP Moses Kasibante, Andrew Irumba, the Red Pepper Clients Relations Officer was whisked away in a police pick-up truck.

Richard Tusiime, Executive Director of the Red Pepper, says they do not know where Irumba and his colleague were taken and why, but they are following up the issue with police.

Court has set May 30th to hear an application by the Monitor Publications to cancel a court order, compelling it to produce the original letter that was written by General Sejusa, who is still out of the country.

On Sunday, the Associated Press quoted Sejusa’s lawyer Joseph Luzige as saying the General has asked for police protection from the UK government.

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