Thursday, November 29, 2012

CBS radio journalist has a case to answer.

Kalangala, 28th/November/2012; a court in Kalangala has ruled that a Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) radio journalist Ronald Ssembuusi has a case of criminal defamation to answer in a matter brought against him by the Kalangala district Chairperson David Kikoola. CBS radio is owned by Buganda Kingdom. 

Ssembuusi -a correspondent for Kalangala district in the Central Uganda region was dragged by the district Chairman David Kikoola to court accusing him of defamation. He reported a story which aired on CBS radio on 17th/November/2011 that Kikoola was being investigated for alleged involvement in the disappearance of solar panels. Over 80 solar panels were donated by the African Development Bank through the ministry of water and environment in 2010 to help circulate clean and safe water in Kalangala Town Council. But about 40 (forty) of them went missing. Since November 2011, police have recovered some of them
Prosecution alleged that the story defamed Kikoola and brought several witnesses who among others included Daniel Kikoola- the complainant, Tindyebwa David -a fisherman and Kaweesa Gibril.

Ssembuusi preferred to remain silent after the ruling was delivered on November 28th, 2012 by presiding magistrate, Kenneth Gimungu. 

He is being represented by the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda lawyer Catherine Anite who tendered in defence evidence of a letter written by the Water ministry to the Kalangala Town Clerk about the loss of solar panels in the district in a bid to justify the cause of the story.  After Anite’s oral submissions which closed the defence’ case, the prosecution was given up to one week to respond.

.Court will set the judgment date on the 19th December 2012.
HRNJ-Uganda is impressed by the expeditious way in which this matter is being handled by the Court and is optimistic that the journalist will be acquitted.

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

Court dismisses case against journalist

Ntungamo, 28th/November/2012; Court in Ntungamo has dismissed a case in which the Daily Monitor Journalist Perezi Rumanzi has been facing charges of incitement to violence.

Rumanzi, 27 was arrested on April 29th 2012 by Special Forces Group (SFG) guarding the first Lady Janet Museveni at Kyamate Cathedral which is the seat of South Ankole Diocese. He was allegedly compromising the security of the First Lady by interfering with their movement. Rumanzi, a freelance reporter with the Daily Monitor in Ntungamo District in Western Uganda was covering the installation of the members of South Ankole Diocese Synod at St. Mathew Cathedral Kyamate in Ntungamo district where Mrs. Museveni was the chief guest. Upon his arrest he failed to provide sureties on that day, and was remanded to Ntungamo Government prison until May 30.

Prosecution had alleged that Rumanzi conducted himself in a manner that got the security concerned. It is alleged that he interfered with the movement of security people, and hurled insults at them, saying their time will come like it happened with Muammar Gaddafi.
The dismissal of the case followed the letter written by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Richard Buteera  to court dated October 10th stating that the State had lost interest in the case.  “This is to inform Court that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to discontinue proceedings against Perezi Rumanzi charged with incitement to violence.” Read the withdrawal letter presented by the prosecutor Wamudat Moses Wasome.
 “The case has been dismissed and the suspect be discharged.” said the Ntungamo Grade One Magistrate Francis Matenga Dawa on Wednesday 28th November 2012 to a fully packed court.
It was a mixed reaction for Rumanzi, “Am happy that the case was dropped but unhappy that I did not get a chance to defend myself. It’s bad that they (State) bring up trumped charges, and then drop them as they wish.” he said soon after court. He was represented by Monitor Publications lawyer Joshua Mariiro who referred to the charge as “hopeless meant to intimidate Rumanzi from reporting freely.”
 Human Rights Network for Journalists –Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) welcomes this victory in Court.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Journalist Asks Court to Throw Out Defamation Case.

Kalangala, 15th/November; A Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) radio journalist, Ronald Ssembuusi has asked Court to disregard all prosecution evidence against him in a defamation case. This comes as the defense and prosecution made their submissions on the 14th November as to whether there is a case to answer.

Ssembuusi -a correspondent for the Buganda Kingdom’ private CBS radio for Kalangala district in the Central Uganda region was dragged to court by the district Chairman David Kikoola accusing him of defamation.  He reported a story which was aired on CBS radio on 17th/November/2011 that Kikoola was being investigated for alleged involvement in the disappearance of solar panels. Over 80 solar panels were donated by the African Development Bank through the ministry of water and environment in 2010 to help circulate clean and safe water in Kalangala Town Council. However, about 40 (forty) panels were stolen; Police have so far recovered 21.

Ssembuusi, being represented by HRNJ-Uganda lawyer, Anite Catherine submitted that the Prosecution led by Arthur Masaba had failed to prove ingredients of the offence and whether the accused was the author of the said defamatory material, adding that it was not the responsibility of the accused to determine what should be broadcasted on air. She also noted that prosecution had not proved that the complainant was ridiculed either hated or his profession, trade and reputation injured due to the story.

She argued that the limits of acceptable criticism are wider as regards a public official than a private individual. Unlike the latter, the former inevitably and knowingly lays him open to close scrutiny of his every word and deed by both journalists and the public at large, and must consequently display a greater degree of tolerance. She invited Court to discourage closed leadership and none transparency by leaders as this is a danger to society.
She prayed for the prosecution evidence to be struck off as it was inconsistent and false and for an acquittal for the journalist. She implored Court to advise the complainant to seek for justice using other avenues like the civil court and Media Council.

In response, the prosecution asked court to regard the inconsistencies in their witnesses’ evidence as minor and to handle the case as a human rights issue because the complainant had been treated inhumanly by the news.
The presiding magistrate, Kenneth Gimugu adjourned the matter to 28th November 2012 to give his ruling on whether or not Ssembuusi has a case to answer.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road 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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Friday, November 9, 2012

National Coordinator

Nabatanzi Christine

Kasamani Isaac

Gideon Tugume

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Police and city enforcement officers rough up, detain journalist

Wakiso, 07th /November/2012; Ssematimba  Bwejiire, a Radio Simba journalist was yesterday beaten by policemen and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) law enforcement officers for “disorganizing” their work as he attempted to record them impounding a commuter taxi that had allegedly defaulted KCCA monthly dues at Mulusanja, a Kampala suburb. The journalist, who sustained body injuries and his property stolen, was thrown on a KCCA patrol pick-up and driven to Kanyanya police station as law enforcement officers roughly stamped their feet on him.

“Over 20 officers from police and KCCA pounced on me and started beating me. They kicked, boxed and slapped me. They accused me of disorganizing their work. They pulled my shirt and tore it. I fell down as I pleaded with them that I was a journalist. They threw me on one of their patrol pick-ups, kept stepping on me and took me to Kanyanya police station where I was detained. I feel a lot of pain on the head and chest. I lost my audio recorder and money.” Ssematimba told HRNJ-Uganda today.

He was released on the intervention of the Resident City Commissioner for Kampala, Samuel Mpimbaza Hashaka who accused police and KCCA officers of “unprofessional” conduct referring to the incident as “unfortunate”. 

“I will make sure that all the culprits are arrested.” Hashaka told HRNJ-U today.
The Officer in Charge, Kanyanya police station, Mathias Turyasingura, described Ssematimba as a victim of circumstances and advised him to open up a case. “The file is being handled but no arrests have been made so far”. Turyasingura told HRNJ-U.

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ban on Uganda’s critical State of the Nation play has no legal basis, says co-director

Poster for State of the Nation play

The co-director of a play banned in Uganda has told RFI he’s concerned about the repercussions of continuing to stage his production. But he believes Uganda’s Media Council is on shaky legal ground. John Ssegawa, co-author of State of the Nation, says the Ugandan authorities are limiting freedom of expression.

“We have legal representation. If they arrest us, then we can talk about the law,” says Ssegawa.
Earlier this week Uganda’s Media Council ordered that performances of State of the Nation, which is critical of the government, be stopped until its content was reviewed.

“It has been on for about a month now. If they wanted to preview it, they would come and do it,” Ssegawa says in response to the ban. The staging of the production was originally timed to coincide with the celebration of Uganda’s anniversary of independence on 9 October. It had been running at the National Theatre in Kampala.

Ssegawa says the production company is willing to discuss parts of the play that are an issue for the government’s media watchdog. However, stopping the production altogether is not an option.
“If there are a few lines, then we can discuss it," Ssegawa concedes. “But we don’t just stop, because we employ a lot of people and we have bills to pay."

State of the Nation charts Uganda’s political history from 1962 up to today. It is critical of the government, Ssegawa admits, but also touches on the government’s achievements. There are characters that could be construed as being government officials as well as the opposition.

“It’s just an abstract form of art,” says Ssegawa, denying that the theatrical production is intended to incite people, has sectarian overtones or aims to ridicule Ugandan officials.

Audio report
Click on the picture to listen to the report
Ssegawa, of the Afri-Talent company, is anxious that this ban could signal the death of theatre in Uganda as well other forms of artistic expression.
“There is a lot of comedy in Kampala,” he says. “The characters that are comic represent a few government officials here in Kampala. So are you going to stop everything?”

Drama is “small-scale” in Kampala, according to Ssegawa. He thinks the authorities should concentrate their efforts on television channels that screen programmes that have a bad influence on young people and radio stations that play “not so good music”.

When asked whether Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni could identify himself in the play, Ssegawa is cautious. Not wanting to bring the Ugandan head of state into the argument, he instead says the ban does not have anything to do with the presidency’s seat of power, State House.

Other activists for freedom of expression are more outspoken in their criticism of the government. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala of the Ugandan Human Rights Network for Journalists, says this latest ban is indicative of a worrying trend.

“Of late, things are becoming tricky,” says Wokulira Ssebaggala. “Journalists have been forced out of their employment, others have been taken to court, they’re facing trumped-up charges. So now the media is done, they’re targeting other avenues of expression."

State of the Nation is the latest play to fall foul of pressure from the authorities. British theatre producer David Cecil was recently arrested for staging a production about gay people without permission. His play The River and the Mountain highlighted the difficulties of being gay in Uganda.

Cecil was released on bail and ordered to surrender his passport. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda.
“The first one [play] was banned by the media council,” says activist Wokulira Ssebaggala. “It was highlighting the state of the LGBT community, it was portraying how things are in Uganda, how they’re being targeted by the government."

For Ssegawa the Ugandan authorities might be concerned that State of the Nation could help galvanise the opposition movement. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye came to see the play and “liked it”, he says.
Besigye, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change party, has been detained several times for his walk-to-work protests. Is his attendance at a performance of State of the Nation part of the problem?
“Isn’t he supposed to watch a production,” Ssegawa jokes.