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Red Pepper editors in court, treason charge dropped

Red Pepper directors and editors in court. PHOTO VIA @DianaKobugabe

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  A week after their arrest, editors and directors of one of Uganda’s most popular tabloid newspaper groups are in court to face charges over an article implicating President Yoweri Museveni in a plot to overthrow his Rwandan counterpart.

The Red Pepper editors and directors were charged at Buganda Road Court, from where they were driven from Nalufenya where they have been detained since last week.

Report from court indicate that the carge of treason was dropped by prosecution and the Red Pepper managers have instead been accused of disturbing Museveni’s peace, among other charges. Buganda Road chief magistrate James Mawanda Ereemye ruled that heir bail application will only be heard on December 5.

The editors and directors were arrested on Tuesday November 21 during a police raid on the offices of the privately owned English-language Red Pepper and its local-language sister publications.

Soon after, a treason charge, which carries a possible seven-year jail term, was lodged against them.

The controversial article, published November 20, said Museveni was plotting to overthrow his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.

“The charges include treason, offensive communication and disturbing the peace of the president,” Dickens Byamukama, one of the detained journalists’ lawyers, told AFP. “All the staff denied the charges,” he added.

Among those held are Red Pepper’s CEO Richard Tusiime as well as chief editors and the financial director of the group. The directors held are Arinaitwe Rugyendo, Patrick Mugumya, Johnson Musinguzi, James Mujuni, and editors Ben Byarabaha (Managing Editor), Richard Kintu
(News Editor) and Francis Tumusiime (News Editor).

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders condemned the “absolutely disproportionate” response and called for the journalists to be immediately released.

Byamukama said the newspaper’s offices had been sealed up and phones, laptops and other equipment confiscated

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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