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Monitor journalists charged with libel

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ACCUSED: Mr Izama (L) and Mr Ochieng aboard a police truck to Makindye Court where they were charged yesterday. PHOTO BY ISAAC KASAMANI 

By Anthony Wesaka

Posted  Thursday, February 4   2010 at  00:00
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Two Daily Monitor journalists were yesterday charged with criminal libel at the Makindye Chief Magistrates Court over an article the State claims defamed President Museveni.

Mr Henry Ochieng, the Sunday Monitor editor and Mr Angelo Izama, a staff writer, denied the charges and were released on bail.
The two journalists were interrogated at Kabalagala Police Station before they were whisked away to Makindye Chief Magistrate’s Court where the charges were preferred against them.

Prosecution alleges that the two journalists on December 20, 2009 unlawfully published a defamatory matter in an article that appeared in the Sunday Monitor titled “Will the people’s power defeat President Museveni in the poll?”

Core to the case are allegations that the article compared President Museveni’s regime to that of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos who was deposed in 1986.

Court ordered the journalists to deposit Shs100,000 each and each of their two sureties were ordered to deposit a non-cash sum of Shs500,000.
Mr David Ouma Balikowa, a media consultant and a shareholder in the Monitor Publications Ltd and Mr Nicholas Sengoba, an accountant, stood surety for Mr Ochieng.

Mr Charles Mwanguhya, Daily Monitor’s assistant news editor and Mr Hussein Kashillingi, a lawyer, stood surety for Mr Izama.
Mr James Nangwala, the journalists’ lawyer, said the article discussed the subject of two different regimes including the ruling NRM and contained nothing defamatory of Mr Museveni.

The State prosecutor objected to the bail application, saying the journalists were likely to commit similar offences if they were left working.

But Magistrate Immaculate Busingye released the journalists saying that they had produced substantial sureties and that they were entitled to bail.
She ordered the journalists to report back to court on February, 25.
Court also asked Mr Nangwala to avail copies of a petition he filed challenging the law on criminal libel in the Supreme Court.