A series of media closures is underway in Uganda
By Melanie Nathan, May 20, 2013.
The Ugandan authorities are searching a variety of media outlets looking for an original press release, purportedly evidence in a crime, which seems to relate to the recent military controversy involving a Ugandan general. A Police statement on Monday indicated that they were searching tabloid, Red Pepper and the Daily Monitor. This could result in the daily newspapers being inoperative for some time. Police have sealed off both.
“Uganda Police shall continue to occupy and search the two premises until the said documents are retrieved to assist with ongoing investigations,” said the police spokesperson, Judith Nabakooba on Monday.
Red Pepper offices have been sealed off with “crime scene” yellow tape, according to one of the Directors, Patrick Mugumya. Heavily armed anti-riot, plain-clothes police personnel are stationed in and outside the newspaper headquarters. All staff have been directed to leave their offices.
In addition the authorities have silenced the newspaper’s sister radio stations, Ddembe Fm and KFM which have now been taken off air. Several activists have condemned the raids and warned of the resumption of abuse of freedoms of press.
Sharp rifts in Uganda’s political and military establishment emerged last week with the sensational publication in the Daily Monitor of an internal memo the coordinator of intelligence services General David Sejusa (formerly Tinyefuza), apparently wrote to the director general of the Internal Security Organization.
In it, Gen Sejusa appears to ask the DG ISO, Col Ronnie Balya, to investigate claims that three high-ranking army officers in cahoots with other people plotted to frame and/or assassinate other senior government officials opposed to rumoured plans by President Yoweri Museveni to have his son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, succeed him. The targets include Gen Sejusa himself, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, and Gen Aronda Nyakairima, the Chief of Defence Forces. The memo touched off a flurry of denials and threats from Gen Aronda and Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the Minister of Defence, who both warned Gen Sejusa he was acting outside the law.
The warnings were immediately followed by raids on Gen Sejusa’s office. Four of his staff members were taken in for questioning over “subversive activities” — the same charges, along with spreading harmful propaganda, that he potentially faces. The memo is only the latest in a series of events pointing to simmering unease within the army. The tell-tale sign that President Museveni is ready to sanction Gen Sejusa’s prosecution will be if he announces a military reshuffle and promotes some lieutenant generals to the exclusive club of full generals that currently has seven members.
Police spokesperson, Nabakooba said Police on May 15 received a Court Order, from the Chief Magistrates Court Nakawa, requiring The Daily Monitor journalists to hand over the original copy of a letter and other related documents, purportedly authored by Gen. David Sejusa (a.k.a. Tinyefuza.) In the letter, Tinyefuza called for investigations into planned assassinations of military officials opposed to the idea of Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba succeeding his father.
The army vehemently denied the charge, accusing Tinyefuza of making divisive remarks. The police announcement (below) says the Police have made the closure of the Daily Monitor to “ help police investigate criminal offenses”. A Similarly search warrant has been secured for Red Pepper premises in respect of three press releases allegedly authored by Gen. Sejusa. Uganda Police are currently searching the premises to recover said press releases.
UGANDA POLICE PRESS RELEASE
Uganda Police on May 15, 2013. received a Court Order from the Chief Magistrates Court Nakawa, requiring Daily Monitor journalists to avail and provide the original copy of a letter and and other related documents, purportedly authored by Gen. David Sejusa (a.k.a Tinyefuna), and the source of the said missive. The said documents are to help police investigate the criminal offences.
Daily Monitor Publications was duly served with the Court Order and confirmed receipt by signature.
Though multiple requests were made, the organisation has adamantly refused to comply, with the Court Order leading to issuance of a search warrant by the same Nakawa Magistrates Court
Today, May 20, 2013. in pursuance of the search warrant Daily Monitor premises have been cordoned off in accordance with the laws of Uganda In particular. Section 27 d the Police Act.
Similarly a search warrant has been secured for Red Pepper premises in respect of the three press releases allegedly authored by Gen. Sejusa. Uganda Police is currently, searching the premises to recover the said press releases.
Uganda Police shall continue to occupy and search the two premises until the said documents are retrieved to assist with ongoing investigations.
Uganda Police further requests that all concerned parties cooperate with the Police in the execution of the search warrant.
Signed Judith Nabakooba
It would seem from local reports that the electricity has been cut off at The Daily Monitor with the electric company asserting it is “just doing maintenance.”
It is unclear at this time why there was a need to close the radio stations merely because they are associated with the Newspapers.
For insight into the lead up read The Daily Monitor at http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Commentary/Gen-Sejusa–all-this-is-completely-unnecessary/-/689364/1854898/-/4w8ytsz/-/index.html
Of added interest to LGBT readers: Although not connected in any way to the investigation and of no relevance to the closures or investigations, is the fact that well known LGBT activist Frank Mugisha was due to appear on one of the closed radio stations tonight. That show like all the others have been cancelled. Also of interest and unrelated to the closures is the fact that Red Pepper is the Tabloid that we accused here on OBLOGDEE of persecution for outing and publishing photos of LGBT Ugandans in conjunction with language that incites harm to the LGBT members of the community.\
UPDATED: 5/21/2013: Here is Statement by Ugandan press, The Daily Monitor: