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Red Pepper editors out on bail

Red Pepper directors and editors in the dock earlier. PHOTO VIA @bamulanzeki

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Detained since November 21, editors and directors of one of Uganda’s most popular tabloid newspaper groups Red Pepper were finally granted bail today in a case in which they face charges of offensive communication, libel and publication of information prejudicial to security.

Charles Yeteise, senior principal magistrate Grade One read out a brief statement by Chief Magistrate James Mawanda Ereemye at Buganda Road Court today granting a Sh 20 million non-cash bail until January 19, but asked they leave their passports behind.

The directors – Arinaitwe Rugyendo, Patrick Mugumya, Johnson Musinguzi, Richard Tusiime and James Mujuni, and editors – Ben Byarabaha, Richard Kintu and Francis Tumusiime were arrested following a raid on the Namanve based offices of the privately owned English-language Red Pepper and its local-language sister publications. The newspaper’s offices were sealed off and phones, laptops and other equipment confiscated.

Bail had earlier been delayed as prosecutors argued that if given bail, the Red Pepper team are likely to continue publishing stories that have an effect on regional security. Police have cordoned off their publishing offices as a crime scene.

The story in question, published November 20, said President  Museveni was plotting to overthrow his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame.

The editors and directors initially faced treason charges, that were dropped. They were instead accused of using their computers for no legitimate purpose other than to disturb the peace and privacy of President Museveni, General Salim Saleh  and  Lt.Gen Henry Tumukunde by portraying them as people who contrived a plot to over throw the President of Rwanda.

“It has been a month of uncertainty for these journalists as they have been moved from one detention centre to another but to also their families that have endured this ordeal,” their lawyer Dickens Byamukama told AFP.

“It’s not only these (directors and editors) that have suffered but also the Red Pepper group’s readers that have not seen the papers on the streets since the police sealed off and took over the premises,” he added.

Police investigations 

Besides being false the story was a threat to regional security, police spokesman Emillian Kayima had said soon after they were charged.

“The Uganda police force initiated investigations into the serious statements and insinuations in that story, that have grave implications on national and regional security and stability,” Kayima added.

The article, a version of which first appeared in Rwandan media, was carried by the Red Pepper and other publications owned by the publisher, and claimed a Ugandan plot to destabilise neighbouring Rwanda.

Red Peper have been in trouble before, most notably in 2013 when they were temporarily closed down after publishing a letter written by Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza.

The police said then they were searching for a leaked letter authored by the coordinator of intelligence services   Sejusa that contained allegations of a ploy to eliminate those opposed to plans by President Yoweri Museveni.



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