Red Pepper editors back in jail for being a 'threat to national security'

Wednesday December 6 2017

Red Pepper editors and managers.

Red Pepper journalists in the dock at Buganda Road Court last week. They have been freed on bail. PHOTO | MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI | DAILY MONITOR 

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A Ugandan court has extended the detention of editors and directors of an independent newspaper accused of implicating Kampala in a plot to overthrow Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate James Mawanda on Tuesday allowed police to hold the four managers and four journalists of Red Pepper until December 19.


The four directors are Richard Tusiime (the managing director), Johnson Musinguzi (finance), Patrick Mugumya (operations) and Arinatiwe Rugyendo (company secretary and chief marketing officer).

The scribes are Richard Kintu (news editor), Ben Byarabaha (associate editor), Francis Tumusiime (special projects editor) and James Mujuni (a reporter).

They are accused of publishing and distributing a story on Uganda military operations, strategies and troop deployment in likely breach of national security.

The journalists are charged with publishing information prejudicial to security, libel and offensive communication to President Yoweri Museveni and his brother General Salim Saleh.


The magistrate rejected their bail application and ordered their lock-up at Luzira Prison in Jinja.

The eight were first arraigned in court last Monday before being remanded at the prison where they were picked up on Wednesday for the hearing.

The ruling followed opposition from a prosecutor from the Uganda Communications Commission, who asked the court not to release the accused.


Mr Mr Abdul-Salam Waiswa argued that granting the journalists their freedom would endanger national security.

If released, he told the court, the accused are likely to repeat the offence.

Mr Waiswa quoted the affidavit of the investigating officer Isaac Oketcho, who claimed that if the accused are set free, they would gain access to their computers, e-mails and mobile phones and frustrate investigations.

Mr Waiswa asked the court to consider the seriousness of the offence and the danger the accused could pose to Uganda, Rwanda and the entire Great Lakes region.


Freedom of the press has been declining in Uganda in recent years, according to the Washington based-rights body, Freedom House.

“Uganda declined due to increased government pressure on media outlets regarding coverage of political events, along with a growth in bribery in exchange for favourable election-related reporting,” Freedom House noted in its 2016 report.

According to the body’s country rankings, Uganda ranked 24th on the continent and at 122 in globally.