Monitor offices under police siege

Monday May 20 2013

By Isaac Imaka & Frederic Musisi

Police officers Monday searched Monitor offices, claiming they were looking for the Gen David Sejusa’s letter. The police later shut down the newspaper’s printing press and its sister FM radio stations – KFM and Dembe FM.Time Check, 11:15am and three fully packed police patrol vans stop outside Monitor offices.

Two vans park at the end points of the Monitor building and one is parked just near the main entrance.The Daily Monitor, KFM, and Dembe FM are under siege. The men in uniform have a search warrant to even search production plant.

Nabakooba speaks

In a press statement, Police Spokesperson Judith Nabakooba said the police received intelligence information that there are people who have started scanning signatures of senior government officials “with the intention of using the said signatures on documents claiming they are officials documents from government whereas not.”

The police officers on the scene led by deputy CID Director Godfrey Musana told Monitor Publications Management that the newspapers premises have been declared a scene of crime, and no operations can go on.Mr Alex Asiimwe, the Monitor Publications Limited (MPL) managing director, described the situation as “very surprising and unfortunate’.“We are seeing police officers wielding guns but no one is giving us a communication on what is happening,” he said.

“But we are trying to make sure the situation normalises as early as possible.”He added: “Instead of carrying out the search, the armed men disabled the printing press, computer servers and radio transmission equipment.”“The intention was to prevent the monitor from operating, broadcasting and printing its newspapers. We are horrified by this act, which is a gross disregard of the Ugandan law and a violation of the Monitor’s constitutional right.”


He, however, promised that the Monitor Publications Ltd. management will do everything possible to resolve the situation.As the police officers extensively frisk each staff entering the building, those inside are tense and are seen looking through windows to have a glimpse of Mr Musana, the deputy director CID giving orders to plain clothed officers to start searching the premises.Meanwhile, some plain-clothed officers are already in the Monitor canteen eating food and mingling with the staff, probably to tap into possible leads from the unsuspecting reporters.

Mr Tom Mshindi, the Chief Operating Officer, Nation Media Group (NMG), said the action was very surprising in a country where core discussions on freedom of expression are lively.“We could have hoped for a prior communication before this happened but we didn’t get it,” Mr Mshindi added.Mr Mshindi was part of the team that came from Nairobi to attend an impromptu board meeting. The police raucous got them in the building.

What Mshindi said

Addressing the staff, Mr Mshindi said: “This is a reminder of the hazards that good journalism brings. But just to assure you, we are fully in this wand we will handle the situation and a situation like this requires that we engage proactively.”

Determined to cripple the day’s activities at the monitor, police electricians also were called in to disconnect the offices from the grid.Gen Sejusa has kicked up a storm after Daily Monitor this month published a letter he wrote to the director of the Internal Security Organization, Col Ronnie Balya, asking that he investigates claims of plots to eliminate government officials opposed to “Muhoozi Project”.

Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga last week told Parliament that no such project existed allegedly meant to help the First Son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, succeed his father, President Museveni.Gen Sejusa, who is currently out of the country, was scheduled to return to the country this week but never showed up.

News of his anticipated return was greeted with heavy deployment along Entebbe Road, especially at the airport and until yesterday, visitors and cars to the facility were still undergoing thorough search and cameras were not being allowed inside.

As Daily Monitor was going through the search, the Red Pepper Newspaper, a Kampala tabloid was also under police siege. Just like Dembe FM, Red pepper was shut down as the police went on with the search.