The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the government to immediately halt the siege of the premises of Monitor Publications Limited the publishers of Daily Monitor and Red Pepper Publications Limited, the publishers of The Red Pepper.
The two media houses have since May 20 been sealed off by police and are treated as “crime scenes”. The UN describes the action as a flagrant violation of Uganda’s obligations under international human rights law to allow journalists freedom to speak and write without fear of persecution, arrest and intimidation.
Statement in full
Subject: Police curtailing media freedom
Kampala (25 May 2013) – The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) calls on the Government of Uganda to immediately halt the siege of the premises of The Daily Monitor and The Red Pepper.
Since 20 May, two media houses, The Daily Monitor and The Red Pepper, as wells as the FM radios stations KFM and Dembe FM, are sealed off by police as a “crime scene” and all operations of these media have been stopped and the movement of their personnel restricted.
The sealing off of the media premises and the restriction of movement of their personnel to carry out their professional activities is a flagrant violation of Uganda’s obligations under international human rights law. Journalists must be able to speak and write without fear of persecution, arrest and intimidation.
The events came in the wake of a controversial letter purportedly authored by the Coordinator of Intelligence Services, Gen. David Sejusa, published partially on May 7 by the Daily Monitor. The police sought to get the original document cited by the Daily Monitor. After summoning three journalists for interrogation, the police requested for a court order on Wednesday May 15, 2013, compelling the Daily Monitor journalists to produce the letter to police and to reveal their source of information. OHCHR is concerned that, the police siege at the media is on-going despite the withdrawal of the search warrant by the Court and its order for the police to vacate the installations and stop the search forthwith.
It’s disturbing that intimidation and harassment are being used in retaliation against the exercise of freedom of expression. Journalists must be able to speak and write without fear of persecution, arrest and intimidation. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) states that a search warrant does not provide for the de facto closure of operations of the two media houses and radio stations and handing over material and sources cannot be a pre-condition for the reopening.
The High Commissioner calls upon the Government to enable the two media houses and radio stations to resume their activities. Ahead of the 2016 elections, the current events may serve to reinforce self-censorship and severely constrict freedom of opinion and expression at a key moment in Uganda’s political development.