Kampala, 5th/Sept/2011, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has Unearthed interference with media work by security forces which has forced Ggwanga news Papers to close its operations and set its future in suspend.
It is now three months since the security forces raided Ggwanga newspaper, and business has never been the same to date.
The newspaper premises were raided on 24th/May/2011 on suspicion that Ggwanga premises, and then located along Wakaligga road in Lubaga division, Kampala district, was being used to House materials used by a pressure group, Activists for Change (A4C) to advocate against High fuel and commodity prices.
The following day, on 25th/May/2011, the anti riot police raided and searched the Premises of Prime General Supply limited a company in Ntinda which offers printing Services to Ggwanga news paper as a possible source of document (a brochure for A4C) this had been allegedly confiscated from the Ggwanga premises. The police search Yielded to nothing
The raid saw the papers Managing Director, Kizito Sserumaga, the Editor Alex Lubwama, Administrator Patricia Serebe and a security guard Lukyamuzi Peter all arrested. Lukyamuzi was, however, set free while other three charged and released on bond. The police also impounded a computer and other documents which were allegedly inciting Violence.
Human Rights network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has leant that since the raid, the owner of the premises that were housing the paper was scared of continuing to rent premises to Ggwanga newspaper. So the paper was forced to vacate them.
Ggwanga has since shifted to Makerere Kikoni- a suburb of Kampala. Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that since the search, the printing company had discontinued offering printing services to the paper but later accepted after hiking the printing prices. “Before the raid incident, we could print on credit but now it must be cash and at a higher price” Staff who preferred anonymity said.
A spy planted in Ggwanga news paper
HRNJ-Uganda has established that before the raid, a spy had allegedly been planted in Ggwanga news room to do surveillance on behalf of security organs without management knowledge. Sources say before the raid, Ggwanga news paper had received a letter from the alleged members of security organs disassociating from themselves from brutality experienced during the “Walk to Work”. The letter allegedly was calling for people to defend themselves.
“A letter had been published on the paper’s website waiting to be published in the paper “a source said. We can’t tell who exactly the spy was but it seems the security apparatus recruited amongst us.
“We suspect security forces used a letter to setup Ggwanga news paper since they had failed to get the entry point to sabotage its work but we condemn strongly such Interferences of security forces with media work “said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala. He said this was a direct attack not only on freedom of expression but largely on investment which has been employing many professional Ugandans who cannot be employed by government. “Where does the government benefit from when it abuses the rights of citizens to be employed” Ssebaggala asked?
When HRNJ-Uganda contacted the managing editor Mr. Kizito Sserumaga he confirmed that security circles revealed it to them during the interrogation. He said they were told that upon receiving some materials from Activist for Change (A4C) and the letter somebody who was not mentioned called police which prompted the raid. Activists for Change is a loose group bringing together political and human rights activists protesting the increasing fuel and commodity prices.
When Mr. Kizito was asked why A4C materials could be kept in their premises; he said the documents police impounded were forgotten behind by one of the paper’s opinion writer who had gone to write an opinion.
How police worked on directives;
There seem no case has been committed by Ggwanga News paper because sources known to HRNJ-Uganda said that the directive allegedly came from President Museveni to the Inspector General Police Kale Kaihura to deal with the paper. The problem stem from the critical reports Ggwanga has been publishing about Kampala government. Ggwanga has written numerous stories on corruption, extra judicial killing and torture allegedly committed by Museven’s forces.
The raid and arrests both were conducted by operatives some from Rapid Response Unit who took exhibits and suspects (journalists) to Old Kampala police station. Surprisingly, all interrogations were conducted by detectives in presence of the RRU operatives.
Sources said a misunderstanding erupted between detectives headed by Simon Peter Kuteesa the commissioner in-charge of the Media Offences Department and operatives after the interrogation over attempts to give a police bond to suspects.
“Kuteesa left old Kampala police station at around 6pm for consultations. In the process, some operatives also left for unknown reasons as the suspect’s lawyer was bargaining for a bond with police heads based at Old Kampala station” Source said. It took some time for a decision to be made on whether the suspects should be given a bond or not. It was after 10pm when the suspects were released but they were ordered to report on bond the following day.
HRNJ-Uganda was informed that upon reporting in morning on bond, the suspects were informed that their case had been transferred to Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters in Kibuli from Simon Peter Kuteesa. The case was then to be handled by the deputy head of CID in-charge of serious crimes Mr. Geoffrey Musana.
Few days after the journalists had reported several times to police on bond, the police boss Gen. Kale Kaihura summoned the paper management team for a secret meeting. Insiders told HRNJ-Uganda that Gen. Kaihura promised to withdraw the case against the journalists should Ggwanga news paper gives him as assurance that they will stop writing critical stories.
Sources quoted Gen. Kaihura telling the meeting that when he had a meeting with the Mr. Museveni, he was not uncomfortable with the papers publications.
He said the president knew Sserumaga’s family and if the family has a problem with him, he was willing to meet and discuss with them. When Mr. Kizito was contacted by our researcher, he admitted that he met with Gen. Kaihura.
Narrated that while in the meeting they (Kizito) and friends told Gen. Kaihura that their family has no issue with the president Museveni and it’s not the family that controls the paper. “We are only doing our role as journalists not anything else” Kizito narrated.
Ggwanga’s plans before the raid;
Before the raid, the paper had entered into a partnership with major companies including KCB Bank. The partnership was to organize SME groups in and outside Kampala which plan was to be launched towards the beginning of June. Following what happened, all the companies pulled out and the idea died instantly at the paper’s expense.
The paper has gone on the street once since the raid, and it has encountered enormous loses. Kizito told HRNJ-Uganda that after the raid and temporary closure of the paper publications, all its vendors and agents did not report or bring back the money out of their sales- an action which caused the company enormous financial losses amounting to over ten million shillings (about US $ 5,000).
“At the moment we continue to pay rent for our new premises in Makerere Kikoni and salaries of the permanent staff despite having no paper work going on”. Said Kizito.
Attack on the Personnel;
Prior to the raid of the Ggwanga premises, the residence of paper’s Managing Director Kizito had been broken into at night by unknown attackers. In trying to repulse them, Kizito sustained injuries on his forehead. “The attackers jumped into over the wall in the wee hours of the night, but with my people at home, we put up a spirited fight. They freed before we could identity any of them. I can’t tell how many they were in number.
HRNJ-Uganda demand that government should respect media work and stop regarding its work as an adversary because it has the duty to protect all freedoms and rights including the economic, social and cultural rights. Such government tactics are intended to destruct and frustrate the media from doing its oversight role and it will have a chilling effect on those who would want to invest in the media industry.
Ggwanga is still struggling to get back to its feet. “I am not sure how long this is going to take us, but all efforts are underway to resume business”. Kizito said of the future of Ggwanga newspaper.
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