Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Journalist released on bail after 20 hours in prison

Kampala, 1st/June/2011; Timothy Kalyegira, the Managing Editor of one of Uganda Online Magazines ‘ the Uganda Record’ who was remanded to Luzira prison on charges of criminal libel has been released on court bail.

A Grade II Magistrate at Kampala City Hall Court, James Wambeya yesterday remanded Kalyegira after reading to him charges of defaming the person of the president of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in articles published in the Uganda Record.

Prosecution alleges that between the 12th and 15th of July 2010 in Kampala, with intent to defame the president, Kalyegira published that government was behind the plantation of the bombs that went off on July/11th killing more than 80 Ugandans at the Ethiopian village in Kabalagala and Rugby Club in Lugogo.

Section 179 of the Penal Code Act of 1950 states “Any person who, by print, writing, painting, effigy or by any means otherwise than solely by gestures, spoken words or other sounds, unlawfully publishes any defamatory matter concerning another person, with intent to defame that other person, commits the misdemeanour termed libel”.

The law is being challenged by a group of journalists led by Barnard Tabaire in the Supreme Court headed.

The government blamed the bombs on al-shabab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.
So it was furious over the Uganda record publication, and had Kalyegira interrogated by security personnel at the CID, later on searching his home and confiscating his laptop, cell phone, internet modem and passport.

Kalyegira who was with a team of lawyers led by Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi and a team of senior journalists and the Human rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) team had been remanded till the 6th/June/2011 when he would plead to the charges.

It was alleged that the Grade 1 magistrate, Juliet Hatanga who has jurisdiction to handle this case and allow him enter plea, was not present.

Kalyegira has been under police harassment since he was interrogated, first charged with Sedition and released on police bond on 3rd/August/2010 at Kira road police station.

HRNJ-Uganda Uganda has learnt that Kalyegira had applied for his passport to enable him travel to South Africa and attends a Google conference.

Kalyegira who has been produced in court today on a production warrant was bailed out by Grade One magistrate Juliet Hatanga at a non cash bail of one million Shillings after denying charges.
Daily Monitor newspaper Education Editor Charles Mwanguhya and Investigations Editor, Chris Obore, as well as Makindye West MP Hussein Kyanjo, stood sureties for him. Each was bonded at Shs2 million (non-cash).

“These are cases intended to frustrate critical journalism in Uganda. This particular one cannot be proved in court since the law requires quoting a place where the crime was committed from. It does not apply in this case of an online publication" Said the HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairperson Robert Ssempala.

He said old laws are being used against internet use in Uganda and in a just society libel can only be understood as a civil suit than a criminal offense.

HRNJ-Uganda calls on the judiciary to quash the law because it undermines the right to freedom of expression and the principal of questioning those in public office.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road at Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

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