The government yesterday reopened Monitor Publications Limited (MPL) premises, 11 days after they were closed. Outgoing Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek said the decision came after a series of high-level meetings between the government and top leadership of Nation Media Group, the parent company of MPL.
One of the meetings, the minister said, was with President Museveni in Addis Ababa during the African Union Assembly. “In view of the commitments and undertakings by management of the NMG/Monitor Publications to the government and the request of the management, the police have called off the cordon of the Monitor premises so that they resume their normal business as police continue with the search,” Mr Onek said. He was addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala. New Information minister Rose Namayanja also attended the briefing.
“They (Monitor) undertook to be sensitive to and not publish or air stories that can generate tensions, ethnic hatred, cause insecurity or disturb law and order,” Mr Onek said. He added: “They undertook to tighten their internal editorial and gate keeping process to ensure that stories that impact, especially on national security are subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny and verification process before they run.”
The minister, however, refuted claims that he had ordered, as one of the conditions, that the Monitor stops reporting on the First Family and State House. “In newspapers, all public figures are there to be reported on. I have never directed that they (Monitor) should not report on the first family,” Mr Onek said.
The NMG group CEO Linus Gitahi said the Monitor will continue reporting without “letting down our values.” Mr Gitahi said the newspaper will hang on its editorial policy and do journalism that resonates with millions of Ugandans. The Managing Director, Mr Alex Asiimwe, commended the staff who lived through the pain and uncertainty yet the team spirit never died.
The police closed MPL on May 20 after they turned up with a search warrant looking for documents related to Gen. David Sejusa story. The newspaper on May 7 published contents of a letter by the coordinator of intelligence agencies claiming there was a plot to eliminate top government officials opposed to the alleged “Muhoozi Project”.
At the briefing, the Police chief, Gen. Kale Kayihura, said the newspaper contravened the laws by receiving a confidential letter. “Monitor should not in the first place have received that letter. They should have sent it back to where it came from,” he said. “Government must be protected in its work and by publishing the letter, they contravened the Official Secrets Act,” Gen. Kayihura added.
The Act bars public officials from divulging State secrets. He said the Force had not yet had any contact with Gen Sejusa. “We have to first get the letter. We are systematic in the way we do our work. If it becomes necessary to contact him, we will get to him but the investigations are being done by the military. Our involvement is to support them in doing their work,” Gen. Kayihura said.