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Journalists attacked, arrested while protesting seizure of Ugandan media outlets

Police arrest a journalist at a demonstration against the seizure of media outlets in Kampala.
Police arrest a journalist at a demonstration against the seizure of media outlets in Kampala.

Isaac Kasamani/Demotix

On the morning of 28 May 2013, police violently dispersed journalists who had camped outside of the Monitor Publications Limited's closed offices. They arrested the national coordinator for Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, amidst heavy teargas. The police also sealed off 8th street, along which the Monitor is located.

Police engaged the journalists in running battles for over forty minutes. They confiscated two video cameras. A foreign journalist was hit with a baton on her left eye. The most affected journalists included the HRNJ-Uganda board chairperson, Mulindwa Mukasa, Bahati Remmy of NBS television, Sudhir Byaruhanga of NTV (a sister media house to the Monitor) and William Ntege, a.k.a. Kyumakyayesu, among others.

The journalists – led by HRNJ-Uganda – walked to Namuwongo on the morning of 28 May and camped outside of the Monitor's offices to show solidarity and to demand that that government re-open the Daily Monitor, DembeFM, K-FM and Red Pepper . These media outlets were cordoned off and shut down by security forces on 20 May, to search for a controversial letter. The letter was authored by the coordinator of security services in Uganda, General David Sejusa (Tinyefuza), who is currently out of the country.

The Monitor published the letter, in which Sejusa called upon the director general of the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Ronnie Balya, to investigate reports that there was a plot to kill top government officers who were opposed to a reported plot named the "Muhoozi project". The reported plot seeks to have President Museven's son, Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba, succeed his father as president. Museveni has been Uganda's president since 1986, when he took over power after a five-year war.

Mid-last week, the court recalled a search warrant – which the police had used to cordon off the four media houses – and ordered them to vacate the premises. The police have, however, defied the orders.

On 27 May, police chief General Kale Kayihura said that police would not vacate the affected media houses until they secured the original letter authored by General Sejusa. He criticized the court for recalling the search warrant.

The media in Uganda is under intense pressure from the Ugandan government for critical reporting. The broadcast regulatory body, the Uganda Communications Commission, has severally warned to revoke the licenses of such media houses.

On 27 May, HRNJ-Uganda issued an ultimatum to the government, asking for them to unconditionally re-open the four media houses or face court action.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Two Kampala newspapers unable to publish for past ten days

    “The blocking for the past ten days of media that are important sources of news and information for the Ugandan public is a grave violation of freedom of expression,” Reporters Without Borders said.

  • Uganda: Violent attacks on protesters as letter crisis continues

    “This is absolutely unacceptable. Under international law, policing includes safeguarding the exercise of democratic activities. This means that the police must respect and protect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

  • Protest Campaign, Uganda, 27 May 2013

    This act of censorship and intimidation occurred only one week after Ugandan politicians were at the forefront of a resolution supporting press freedom at the Pan African Parliament (PAP).

Case history

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