The government today responded to growing pressure and widespread condemnation and reopened Monitor Publications and Red Pepper, which had been under police occupation since May 20.
Ordinarily, one would be thanking the government for this. But to thank the government would impute some kind of magnanimity on officialdom. Instead, the government must be congratulated for, hopefully, realising the folly of the illegality that the police has perpetuated. The police closed the media houses under the guise of searching for documents related to Gen David Sejusa, and refused to leave even after court ordered them to.
The police's actions constitute yet another dark chapter in Uganda's search for genuine freedom. Article 29 (a) of the Constitution of Uganda says that "every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media".
This freedom, which the present government prides in having 'brought', cannot be restricted to those who agree with the government, or those who dare not speak unpleasant truths to power. Our primary duty as the fourth estate particularly involves exposing realities that people in power would rather keep hidden. The government would have wished that Gen Sejusa did not write the controversial letter, or that he did not hold his uncharitable views about the present military order.
Our job involves listening both to Sejusa and the government and reporting to the people of Uganda. We hope the government realised this. We urge the government to always think about this country's history and not go down paths travelled by autocratic regimes that forced their citizens into exile and their countries into civil strife.
We urge our colleagues in Monitor and Pepper Publications to remain firm, as we all strive to serve the Ugandan public more professionally, without fear. An attack on one media house - especially by those duty-bound to protect and promote fundamental freedoms - is an attack on us all. Ultimately, we are bound together by our aspiration to serve the people of this country regardless of who our public service upsets.