An unknown number of counter-terrorism unit (CTU) police officers yesterday evening besieged the main office of Red Pepper Publications Limited in Namanve, Mukono district.
According to officials at this publication, Frank Mwesigwa, the Kampala Metropolitan Police commander, led the raid which saw the paper's premises surrounded just after 5pm and declared a scene of crime.
Revealing a search warrant from court, the officer ordered all staff to hand over their smartphones, laptops and any other personal electronic device before ordering them to exit the building.
"Breaking: The Red Pepper is currently under siege by the CTU of the Uganda Police and Kampala Metropolitan police," revealed Arinaitwe Rugyendo, the paper's editorial director.
A few hours into the search, Mwesigwa ordered that no one leaves the premises and officers were told to expand the search to staff residences.
"Police officers under the command of Kampala Metropolitan commander Frank Mwesigwa have arrested all Red Pepper staff, confiscated their phones and ordered a search of all their homes. No one is allowed to leave the premises. No production is allowed," reported Red Pepper's official Facebook page at 6:40pm.
According to a search warrant issued by a Buganda Road Magistrate, the document gave permission to Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police Henry Peter Walya to search for electronics and documents related to news published on Monday, November 20.
On the said date, the Red Pepper ran a series of stories about the relationship between Uganda and Rwanda.
The warrant stemmed from an earlier Criminal Miscellaneous Application (M/A 166/17) filed by D/AIP Walya. In his submission, the officer claimed that Red pepper published information prejudicial to security under Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters (GEF/1074/3017). He asked court to grant him permission to search the publisher's premises as part of the investigations.
"Things to be searched include laptops, desktops, Central Processing Units(CPUs), computer accessories (electronics and any other document related to Red Pepper news publication Vol. 17 no. 152 of Monday 20, 2017," noted part of the application which lacks a date on which it was filed.
In 2015, the paper was raided on the same day with Monitor Publications Limited for running stories about former intelligence coordinator, Gen David Sejjusa.