Police yesterday interrogated Mr Tabu Butagira, the managing editor Nation Media Group-Uganda (NMG-U), for about four hours after discharging the NMG-U Managing Director, Mr Tony Glencross, mid-way the session.
A seven-member team of senior detectives led by Mr Julius Twinomujuni, the deputy director for Political and Economic Crimes, questioned Mr Butagira in relation to a May 31, 2021, Daily Monitor story titled, ‘New evidence on Nov city killings emerges.’
Other detectives included Mr Simon Kutesa, the commissioner for Legal; Mr Moses Taremwa, the commissioner for Political and Economic Crimes; Mr Bills Ndyamuhaki, the acting commissioner for Cyber Crime Investigations; Mr Ivan Nsekanabo, an investigator at CID headquarters; and Mr Cyrus Tugume and Mr Wilberforce Rumanyika, both of the Crime Intelligence Directorate.
The impugned story reported findings by a BBC Africa Eye investigation that some of the security operatives who allegedly shot at, and killed, unarmed civilians on Kampala Road during November 2020 violent protests, wore military and field force police uniforms and rode on the back of a 999 police patrol pick-up, registration 5564.
The detectives asked whether Monitor Publications Ltd, the publisher of Daily Monitor, produced the documentary and shared it for broadcast by the BBC, for whom Mr Butagira works, and whether he understood that the story was “prejudicial” to Uganda’s security.
They also alleged that some of the wordings in the article were sensational and calculated to incite violence.
Mr Butagira, accompanied by NMG-U external lawyers James Nangwala and Richard Bwayo and the Company Secretary, Mr Timothy Ntale, argued that the story could not be construed to be inciteful because it was published after the November 18-20, 2020 protests and no violence has occurred in the three weeks since the publication.
Police at the start of this month summoned Mr Butagira and MD Glencross to answer to charges of “publication of false news, libel and incitement to violence”, but yesterday abruptly changed their preferred charges to “incitement to violence and promoting sectarianism”.
They yesterday discharged Mr Glencross mid-way the interrogation after Mr Butagira said he assumed all responsibility for the story that he edited and authorised to be published.
One detective warned Mr Butagira that whereas he yesterday wore the official NTV shirt and was identifiable, on another day he could be killed on the streets when not uniformed because it would not be known that he works for NMG-U.
Speaking after the grilling session and statement recording, the managing editor said the summons show that journalism is important, critical reporting includes demanding accountability and that the trade has risks that journalists should be prepared to endure.
Mr Nangwala said since the November protests had already happened, security forces as mandated by law moved in and used firearms to subdue the disturbances and as a result, several people were killed, this newspaper was only reporting facts.
“The summons shows that [the] government is intolerant to certain publications … it is supposed to develop thick skin [to absorb criticism] ...,” he said.
MD Glencross said Daily Monitor will continue with its bold and factual journalism despite the summons and threats.
“... we will continue to ensure that our editorial is independent, speaks the truth and produces [content that] is the best for our readers,” he said.