5 December 2017

Uganda: No Bail Yet for Red Pepper Editors

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

Kampala — The editors and directors of one of Uganda's most popular tabloid newspaper groups Red Pepper will remain remanded until December 19 when Buganda Road Court will consider their bail appeal.

The editors and directors were detained on November 21 over what authorities called a fake news story about a political plot implicating the president. The story in question, published November 20, said President Yoweri Museveni was plotting to overthrow his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame.

Chief Magistrate James Mawanda Ereemye said he needs more time to study lengthy submissions of both state and defence lawyers. The prosecutors argued that if given bail, the Red Pepper team are likely to continue publishing stories that have an effect on regional security.

They are alleged to have unlawfully caused publication and distribution of a newspaper headline regarding military operations, strategies and troop location well knowing that such publication can disrupt public Order and security.

The editors and directors initially faced treason charges, that were dropped. They were instead last week charged with disturbing Museveni's peace, among other charges and their appeal for bail pushed to today.

Police investigations ongoing

Besides being false the story was a threat to regional security, police spokesman Emillian Kayima said earlier.

"The Uganda police force initiated investigations into the serious statements and insinuations in that story, that have grave implications on national and regional security and stability," Kayima added.

The article, a version of which first appeared in Rwandan media, was carried by the Red Pepper and other publications owned by the publisher, and claimed a Ugandan plot to destabilise neighbouring Rwanda.

Among those held are Red Pepper's CEO Richard Tusiime as well as chief editors and the financial director of the group.

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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