24 January 2018

Uganda: Government Agrees to Reopen Red Pepper

Photo: The Observer
Red Pepper editors and directors in court on December 5, 2017.

President Museveni has pardoned Red Pepper directors and its senior editors and agreed to reopen the company after two months of police siege.

The reopening of the privately owned newspaper that has been critical of government and its officials followed a meeting at State House Entebbe on Tuesday night.

"After a meeting with President Museveni at State House Entebbe, Tuesday night, pardoned the Company Directors and its Senior Editors and promised to immediately order the police to vacate Pepper HQ at Namanve. As the formal process to reopen the newspaper that has been under police siege for two months gets underway, the ground is now set for The Red Pepper, Uganda's most influential newspaper, to hit the streets again very soon," reads part of the newspaper's statement.

"During the meeting at State House Entebbe, the President warned the directors and editors to stop being reckless and become more professional in the course of their reporting," the statement added.

After the meeting, Mr Museveni asked his staff to give each of the publication's officials a revised copy of his edition of his autobiography, "Sowing the Mustard Seed."

He also gave them a booklet containing a lecture he gave during the marking of the Nelson Mandela's Day at Makerere University, to sharpen their ideological awareness.

The directors, according to the statement pledged to the president and the nation, a more transformed and professional publication going forward.

On November 21 last year, police led by the commander of the Kampala Metropolitan, Mr Frank Kwesiga, raided the Red Pepper headquarters with a search warrant issued by the Buganda Road Magistrate's Court.

It warranted the search of items such as laptops, desktops, CPUs, computer accessories (electronics), among other documents.

Eight people who included directors and its senior editors were arrested and charged with several offences including publication of information prejudicial to security, libel and offensive communication.

The eight suspects who include Richard Tusiime, Johnson Musinguzi, Patrick Mugumya, and Arinatiwe Rugyendo were on Tuesday granted non-cash bail of Shs20 million.

Others are Richard Kintu, Ben Byarabaha, Francis Tumusiime and James Mujuni.

However, Buganda Road Court released them on bail on December 19, 2017.

The eight were charged with publication of a news story prejudicial to national security and publication of a story that defamed President Museveni, his brother Gen Salim Saleh and Security Minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde.

They were also charged with the use of the electronic system to publish information that portrayed Museveni, Saleh and Tumukunde as if they are planning to overthrow President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. Prosecutors argue that the report subjected the trio to ridicule, contempt and hatred.

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