Government agrees to reopen Red Pepper

Wednesday January 24 2018
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President Museveni

President Museveni has pardoned Red Pepper directors and its senior editors and agreed to reopen the company after two months of police siege.

The reopening of the privately owned newspaper that has been critical of government and its officials followed a meeting at State House Entebbe on Tuesday night.

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Red Pepper journalists released on bail

Tuesday December 19 2017

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Court has granted bail to eight journalists of a local daily tabloid, the Red Pepper, who are battling several charges including publication of information prejudicial to security, libel and offensive communication.
The eight suspects who include Richard Tusiime, Johnson Musinguzi, Patrick Mugumya, and Arinatiwe Rugyendo were on Tuesday granted non-cash bail of Shs20 million.
Others are Richard Kintu, Ben Byarabaha, Francis Tumusiime and James Mujuni.

Their sureties were also bonded at Shs20 million each.
Buganda Road Court Grade One Magistrate Samuel Kagoda read the ruling which was written by the trial Chief Magistrate James Ereemye who is indisposed.
The eight were charged with publication of a news story prejudicial to national security and publication of a story that defamed President Museveni, his brother Gen Salim Saleh and Security Minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde.

They were also charged with the use of the electronic system to publish information that portrayed Museveni, Saleh and Tumukunde as if they are planning to overthrow President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. Prosecutors argue that the report subjected the trio to ridicule, contempt and hatred.

“After a meeting with President Museveni at State House Entebbe, Tuesday night, pardoned the Company Directors and its Senior Editors and promised to immediately order the police to vacate Pepper HQ at Namanve. As the formal process to reopen the newspaper that has been under police siege for two months gets underway, the ground is now set for The Red Pepper, Uganda's most influential newspaper, to hit the streets again very soon,” reads part of the newspaper’s statement.

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Red Pepper journalists in the dock at Buganda Road recently. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

“During the meeting at State House Entebbe, the President warned the directors and editors to stop being reckless and become more professional in the course of their reporting,” the statement added.
After the meeting, Mr Museveni asked his staff to give each of the publication’s officials a revised copy of his edition of his autobiography, “Sowing the Mustard Seed.”

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US envoy decries attack on media

Thursday December 07 2017

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KAMPALA. The United States Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac, has described the media environment in Uganda as “increasingly threatening” and reminded government of its responsibility to “safeguard the constitutional right” to safeguard a free media.
Ambassador Malac opined that the raid on tabloid Pepper Publications more than a fortnight ago and arrest and charging of its senior editors “simply for publishing an article” was uncalled for. She added that if the “government believes that media stories contain falsehoods, there are legal ways to challenge the stories.”

The five Red Pepper directors and three editors have since been charged with publishing information prejudicial to security, libel and offensive communication to the person of President Museveni and his brother Gen Salim Saleh. They were on Tuesday remanded to Luzira prison until December 19.

In October, Ms Malac said the Uganda Communication Commission shut down Kanungu Broadcasting Services radio for allegedly violating minimum broadcasting standards.
“All of these events undermine the constitutional right of freedom of the press in Uganda, and they hurt the development of the country. I could go on, but the point is that journalists are facing a harsh and increasingly threatening environment,” she added.
Ambassador Malac made the remarks on Tuesday evening at the launch of the Uganda Press Photo Award (UPPA) five-year anniversary publication.
UPPA is an initiative conceived by the foreign journalist umbrella, Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Uganda, to support photojournalism.

Committed
She said speaking out against documented attacks/abuses on the media as “another part [of] our commitment to the media” and urged everyone else to “because if we don’t, then we can’t expect anything to change.”
The transformative role of a free press has spanned generations and benefited societies across the world, resulting in the United Nations designating a special day to commemorate media contribution.
The UN General Assembly in 1993 gazetted every May 3 World Press Freedom Day to evaluate press freedom, pay tribute to journalists killed in the line of duty.

During this year’s celebrations, Reporters Without Borders, a not-for-profit French media freedom defender, reported that Uganda’s rankings on the press freedom index had dropped from the 102 position in 2016 to 112 in 2017.
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda, a local body that fights for press freedom, said 45 journalists have been arrested, 29 assaulted, two radio stations switched off this year alone, showing Uganda is increasingly becoming dangerous for journalists to work in.

Speaking about his field experiences at Tuesday’s launch, Daily Monitor photojournalist Mr Abubaker Lubowa, baptised the media environment as “still being in analogue” mode whereas the world is digitally migrating.
“When all pens go silent and notebooks are closed, cameras remain the only open window. Better still, you can burn a notebook but you cannot burn an image,” Mr Lubowa said.

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He also gave them a booklet containing a lecture he gave during the marking of the Nelson Mandela’s Day at Makerere University, to sharpen their ideological awareness.

The directors, according to the statement pledged to the president and the nation, a more transformed and professional publication going forward.

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A police parked at Red Pepper head offices in Namanve recently. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

When contacted for a comment, Mr Don Wanyama, the senior presidential press secretary confirmed the meeting.

"I can confirm that the meeting happened," said Mr Wanyama without giving details.
On November 21 last year, police led by the commander of the Kampala Metropolitan, Mr Frank Kwesiga, raided the Red Pepper headquarters with a search warrant issued by the Buganda Road Magistrate’s Court.

It warranted the search of items such as laptops, desktops, CPUs, computer accessories (electronics), among other documents.
Eight people who included directors and its senior editors were arrested and charged with several offences including publication of information prejudicial to security, libel and offensive communication.

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The eight suspects who include Richard Tusiime, Johnson Musinguzi, Patrick Mugumya, and Arinatiwe Rugyendo were on Tuesday granted non-cash bail of Shs20 million.
Others are Richard Kintu, Ben Byarabaha, Francis Tumusiime and James Mujuni.

However, Buganda Road Court released them on bail on December 19, 2017.
The eight were charged with publication of a news story prejudicial to national security and publication of a story that defamed President Museveni, his brother Gen Salim Saleh and Security Minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde.
They were also charged with the use of the electronic system to publish information that portrayed Museveni, Saleh and Tumukunde as if they are planning to overthrow President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. Prosecutors argue that the report subjected the trio to ridicule, contempt and hatred.

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