Uganda Court Releases Red Pepper Editors

Uganda-  The eight (8) Red Pepper editors and senior managers arrested in Uganda on November based on charges of libel, offensive communication and publication of information prejudicial to security were granted bail pending further judicial proceedings on decvember 23, 2017.

On 21 November, police operatives removed eight directors and editors from their offices at Pepper Publications Group The eight– Richard Tusiime, Johnson Musinguzi, Patrick Mugumya, Arinatiwe Rugyendo, Richard Kintu, Ben Byarabaha, Francis Tumusiime, and James Mujuni were detained at Nalufenya Police Detention Centre in Jinja.

Ben Byarabaha is with publisher Editha Z. Caduaya during the World Publishers Expo in Berlin.
They are Winners in the 2017 WAN-IFRA SMS Innovation Award held in Berlin on October 10.-Newsline photo

The following day, the editors were forced to reveal computer passwords to police detectives who were attempting to establish the source of a story published by Red Pepper on November 20, concerning an alleged plot to overthrow the government of neighbouring Rwanda.

The Buganda Road Court granted non-cash bail of Shs20 million to the eight Red Pepper editors and senior managers on Tuesday, 19th December. Their sureties were also bonded at Shs20 million each.

On 4 December, WAN-IFRA wrote to President Yoweri Museveni to protest the arrests as well as the handling of the case. In its letter condemning the treatment of the eight Red Pepper staff, WAN-IFRA also highlighted the deteriorating situation for media freedom in Uganda.

“We take this opportunity to express our growing unease at the way media is being treated in Uganda. Editors from media houses such as Monitor Publications Ltd. and Vision Group have recently been summoned to the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate regarding stories they have published. Although they have not been officially charged in court, this trend of summoning and interrogating editors is likely to instill further concern among journalists across the country. Such actions will likely lead to an increase in self-censorship and an understandable reluctance to pursue future stories for fear of recrimination or legal harassment.”

It also added that for journalists already struggling under what is a difficult climate for professional journalism, “the actions of the security forces – and apparent willingness of the government to pursue legal action against media as a means of stifling reporting into issues of clear public interest and national importance – severely infringes on the freedom of the press to carry out its essential watchdog role.”