Wednesday, December 17, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Journalist asks Court to dismiss defamation charges against him.


Kampala 16 /Dec./2014; Court at City Hall in Kampala has resumed hearing of a case in which a former Daily Monitor Journalist, Timothy Kalyegira Nyakahuuma is charged with defaming the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Through his lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, Kelyegira prayed to court that criminal defamation charges brought against him by the State should be dismissed on grounds that Section 179 of the Penal Code Act under which he is being charged contravenes international standards and best practices of media freedom.
He further argued that according to the recent decision delivered by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which Uganda is party to, found criminal defamation to be contrary to the guarantees on freedom of expression. The trial Magistrate, Moses Nabende advised Rwakafuzi to furnish court with the said decision.
In 2012, Kalyegira filed an application to the High Court raising a question of law as to whether online publication was envisaged under s.179 of the Penal Code Act. In deciding the matter, Justice Lameck Kigozi held that publication online can constitute a commission of an offence under section 179 of the Penal code Act and the case was referred back to the trial magistrate for trial.
Prosecution alleges that on 12th and 16th July, 2010 in Kampala district, with intent to defame the person of the president, Kalyegira unlawfully published defamatory matter on the Uganda Records, an online publication, when he published that government was responsible for the bombs that went off on July/11th killing more than 80 Ugandans at the Ethiopian village in Kabalagala and Rugby Club in Lugogo.

The case was adjourned to 16th January 2015 for mention.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org / humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk

Saturday, December 13, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, journalist sentenced to jail over criminal trespass at Parliament

Kampala, 13th/December/2014; A City Hall Court in Kampala has sentenced a freelance journalist, William Ntege aka Buganda Kyumakyayesu to two months in prison on charges of criminal trespass and being a common nuisance at the Parliament of Uganda. Ntege had gone to Parliament to petition the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga over police brutality on journalists and other Ugandans.
A Senior Grade one magistrate Elias Kakooza convicted Ntege to jail over criminal trespass, while cautioned him on the second count of common nuisance.

Prosecution led by State Attorney Miriam Njuki told court that on 9th/Dec/2014, at Parliament in Kampala, Ntege did an act not authorized by law when he lawfully entered into the parliamentary building but remained there with an intention to demonstrate and disrupt business within parliament. Police confiscated his audio and visual evidence to police brutality.

She told court that Ntege also chained and padlocked himself on a bar at the fly-over connecting the South wing to Northern wing of the parliament building, and that efforts to ask him to leave failed until the officers sought the services of a technician to cut the chain, leading to his arrest and prosecution.

Ntege is the second journalist to be convicted and sentenced to prison this year, after Ronald Ssembuusi a correspondent with CBS radio was convicted and sentenced to either one year in prison or pay a One million Shillings fine (USD 400) over criminal defamation. Ssembuusi has since appealed his conviction and sentence at the High Court in Masaka.

Ntege has severally been a victim of police brutality while on duty, his video cameras destroyed and confiscated on most of the occasions, yet the perpetrators were never acted upon. He told HRNJ-Uganda at the KCCA Hall Court that he would appeal his conviction and sentence saying he was not fairly tried as he was not directly asked to plead to the charges, which he denies to have committed.

HRNJ-Uganda is dismayed with the hasty way in which Ntege was tried and convicted. We would therefore support him to challenge his conviction and sentence. The police should desist from bringing tramped up charges against journalists and Ugandans who take to peaceful demonstration which is provided for under the Constitution of Uganda” said Robert Ssempala, the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org / humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk

Monday, November 24, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert; Journalists elect new leadership.


Kampala, 24th/November/2014; journalists under their umbrella body, the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) have elected new leaders of the Executive Board at an Annual General Meeting, held at Pope Paul IV Memorial Hotel in Kampala on November 22, 2014.
A Vision Group journalist, Julius Esegu who was a member of the previous Board, was elected Chairman of a 9-man team for the next 3 years, replacing Mulindwa Mukasa who did not contest for a 2nd term. Daily Monitor’s Mayamba Johnson was unanimously elected as vice Chairperson replacing K-FM’s News Editor and anchor, Hadijah Mwanje.
The Vision Group’ Saul Wokulira Wambuzi and Francis Tumwekwasize Bahene retained their port folios as Secretary and treasurer respectively, Gladys Kigozi is the Deputy Treasurer replacing Kiggundu Joseph. Other Board Members include Enid Ninsiima, Luke Kagiri, Ronald Kalumba and Tom Kalumula.
The out-going were members awarded certificates in recognition of their commendable contribution to the defence and promotion of media rights and journalists’ freedoms. Others awarded include, the former National Coordinator, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala for his founding role, veteran journalist Haruna Kanaabi and the National Coordinator Robert Ssempala for steering the Organisation.
In his maiden speech, Esegu reiterated his commitment to strengthening the Organisation in order to defend and promote media freedoms and rights. The outgoing Chairperson, Mulindwa commended members of his Board and the technical team at the Secretariat for the achievements within his term in office. The National Coordinator, Ssempala hailed the outgoing Board for giving strategic guidance and leadership to the Organisation.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:news@hrnjuganda.org/humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk/Website:www.hrnjuganda.org;BLOG: http://hrnjuganda.blogpost.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, District Police Commander testifies against a journalist


Kampala, 12th November 2014; Hearing of a case in which a journalist, Mulindwa Mukasa is accused of obstructing Julius Ceaser Tusingwire the District Police Commander, Wandegeya Police station while on duty commenced today at the Law Development Centre Court in Kampala before Grade 1 Magistrate Jolly Nkore Shwanda.
Testifying against Mulindwa, Tusingwire said while in his office on 26th November 2013 at around 3:00 pm he heard commotion at the police counter which forced him to come and see what was happening. “When I moved out of my office, I found three people fighting police officers at the counter. At that time they were taking Kamagu, a journalist we had arrested. They were saying a lot of words and wanted to exceed the counter to go the sensitive areas like the armory,” Tusingwiire said adding that he ordered for the arrest of these people and two of them disappeared. He said Mulindwa remained defiant and “continued shouting attempting to grab Kamagu from the police officers and I ordered for his arrest.”
When asked by HRNJ-Uganda’s legal officer Catherine Anite, whether Mulindwa obstructed him, Tusingwire said Mulindwa did not obstruct him. He said; I was obstructed because I am the commander and my obstruction does not have to be physical.”
The case was adjourned to 27th November 2014 for more prosecution witnesses. Tusingwiire is the principal prosecution witness.
Prosecution led by Aisha Batala Naluzze alleges that Mulindwa who is also the HRNJ-U Board Chairperson on 26th November 2013, willfully obstructed the DPC Wandegeya Police Station from carrying out his lawful duties. Mulindwa and other journalists had gone to Police to find out the reasons that had led to arrest and detention of a fellow journalist Richard Kasule alias Kamagu a radio presenter at Top Radio.

This is a trumped up charge against Mulindwa. The court should expeditiously hear it so that justice is done,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National coordinator Robert Ssempala. 
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:news@hrnjuganda.org/humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk/Website:www.hrnjuganda.org;BLOG: http://hrnjuganda.blogpost.com
 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, commercial cyclist arrested over brutal assault of journalist


Kampala, 30th/October/2014: Police in Kampala arrested a commercial cyclist a.k.a bodaboda on charges of assaulting a Vision Group journalist Ismail Ddamba. He is being detained at Kitebi police station in Rubaga division, Kampala district.
The suspect identified as Buyondo Huzair aged 35 years, a resident of Sserwadda zone in Kabowa, Rubaga division was arrested on the 28th October 2014 at about 7:00pm local time at Kibage bodaboda stage, while four others are still at large.
The officer in charge of the station, Kabojja Hamid confirmed the arrest and promised to ensure that those at large are arrested too, “We will arrest four more prime suspects and see what we can do.” Kabojja told HRNJ-Uganda.
Ddamba was on 12th/April/2014 attacked by a mob of angry boda-boda cyclists while he covered them demanding for the release of their colleague who had been detained by the cyclists’ leaders for allegedly failing to pay operational fees at Kabowa in Kampala. The journalist was intentionally attacked by the cyclists who accused him of being a police spy. Police fired bullets in the air to rescue him.
These suspects have eluded arrest for such a long time, so we commend the police for arresting one of them; it is a step towards attaining justice. Since this matter has dragged, we implore the police to expeditiously apprehend the remaining suspects so that they can be prosecuted as well.” Said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala

Monday, October 20, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert; Chief Magistrate ordered to allow journalists in Court


Kampala, 20th/October/2014; The High Court of Uganda at Kampala has ordered the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate, Lilian Buchyana to allow journalists and the public to report and attend the trial of Ronald Poteri who is accused of leaking secret audio recordings between the Inspector General of Police Maj. Gen Kale Kayihura and some ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party youths.

Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe, said that the trial Magistrate acted unreasonably and unfairly in the process of making her ruling, adding that she committed an illegality, was irrational and her decision is clothed in procedural impropriety.

On 25th June 2014, the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Lillian Buchyana ordered for an in-camera trial upon an application made by the prosecution led by Anguzu Lino to exclude journalists and the public from attending the trial of Poteri citing national security. Journalists, through their umbrella body, Uganda Court Reporters’ Association (UCRA) challenged the Magistrate’s order through their lawyers Catherine Anite of HRNJ-Uganda, Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde of Centre for Legal Aid, and Kibirango Peter who argued that Buchyana’s decision was illegal, irrational and improper. They further argued that Poteri’s trial was a case of public interest and that the prosecution had failed to adduce evidence to show how a public trial would jeopardize national security.

“I hereby quash the ruling/decision of the Learned Trial Magistrate of 25 June 2014, ordering in-camera proceedings in Criminal Case No. 303 of 2014 against Poteri Ronald”, read Mugambe’s Judgment in part adding that “any proceedings carried out under this ruling or order are also accordingly quashed”.
She noted that by virtue of Article 41 and 43, the trial magistrate was supposed to evaluate whether the request sought by the State was sufficient in a free and democratic society. “Moreover by giving such a blanket cover of in-camera proceedings for the entire trial, the Trial Magistrate sucked in the Defence case proceedings. Such in-camera proceedings for the Defence case should have been only at the request of the Defence if they felt it necessary.
This is a landmark decision for the media in Uganda. As the eyes and ears for the public, journalists require unfettered access to courts of law so as to report on the process of dispensing justice. This is only possible if they are present in court. Closed justice is untenable in a democratic society unless exceptional circumstances are proved”, Said Robert Ssempala, the National Coordinator HRNJ
 
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail: news@hrnjuganda.org / humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk / Website: www.hrnjuganda.org; BLOG: http://hrnjuganda.blogpost.com
 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Criminal defamation must be outlawed in Uganda-PRESS STATEMENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                                                                                             17th October 2014
Press statement: For immediate release
Criminal defamation must be outlawed in Uganda”
Human Rights Network for Journalist-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is deeply saddened by the sentencing of a Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) radio journalist Ronald Ssembuusi on this 17th day of October, 2014 by Kalangala Magistrate’s Court. Ssembuusi has been ordered to pay a fine of one million shillings (UGX500, 000- to court and UGX500,000- to the complainant) within one month from today or serve a jail term of one year. This is after the Grade 1 Magistrate; Kenneth Gimugu convicted Ssembuusi of criminal defamation on October 3rd 2014 after two years of trial. The sentence comes just a day after Ssembuusi was discharged from Mengo hospital where he was admitted on 10th October –the very day he collapsed outside of the HRNJ-Uganda offices in Kampala due to his ailing health situation.
On 03rd December 2012, Sembuusi was charged with criminal defamation contrary to section 179 and 180(1) of the Penal Code Act for reporting a story on CBS radio on 17th November 2011 to the effect that the former Kalangala LC 5 chairman Daniel Kikola was being investigated in connection with the disappearance of solar panels donated to Kalangala district by the African Development Bank to pump clean water in the area.
This conviction and sentencing has hampered Ssembuusi, at only 25 years, in early stages of his career with a criminal record that may preclude him from practicing his journalism profession without fear; and is likely to shun critical reporting. He is humiliated, his image has been polluted a criminal and his dignity eroded because he raised a news story of public concern on the mismanagement and misappropriation of public resources as well as the conduct of leaders of Kalangala district. HRNJ-Uganda is determined to assist Ssembuusi to overcome this shame by appealing against this conviction and the sentence. We have very fertile grounds for appeal, and we believe that the High Court will overturn this judgment.
HRNJ-Uganda is disturbed that criminal defamation remains on our law books and continues to be used to silence critical reporting. It remains a huge obstacle to media freedom as enshrined in our Constitution; it inhibits the media’s role as watchdog for the society.
Criminal defamation has received wide resentment around the world; unfortunately for Uganda’s case, a panel of five Constitutional Court justices led by Justice Stephen Kavuma upheld that the offence is “…a safeguard against the infringement of a person’s reputation.”
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in November 2010 passed a resolution stating that: “criminal defamation laws constitute a serious interference with freedom of expression and impedes on [sic] the role of the media as a watchdog, preventing journalists and media practitioners to practice [sic] their profession without fear and in good faith;” The Commission called upon State parties to repeal criminal defamation laws because they impede on freedom of speech.

The AU Special Rapoteur on Freedom Expression and Access to Information, Pansy Tlakula has noted that: “criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people rather protecting the right to reputation.” The Pan African Parliament has called upon African leaders to sign onto the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for the repeal of criminal defamation laws across Africa. In April 2014, the constitutional court of Zimbabwe nullified criminal defamation stating that: “the offence of criminal defamation constitutes a disproportionate instrument for achieving the intended objective of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons. In short, it is not necessary to criminalize defamatory statements.”
In 2009, the United Kingdom abolished criminal defamation entirely from their legal system. We therefore want the following;
  1. In light of the above, HRNJ-Uganda has decided to make all efforts to have this particular law expunged from Uganda’s law books.
  2. We call upon the Ugandan Parliament to repeal this law of criminal defamation because it’s a claw back to the freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution and other regional and international treaties to which Uganda is a party.
  3. We also call upon the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to commission investigations into the disappearance of solar panels in Kalangala district for four consecutive times and bring the culprits to book. We should remember that on June 11th 2010, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment wrote to the Clerk, Kalangala Town Council, alluding to lack of effective management oversight and theft of solar panels in the district.
In a democratic society accountability is an essential tool in assessing rule of law. Ugandans have a collective responsibility to hold their leaders accountable. An explanation from a public official is the least expected, however if a leader responds to public inquiries, and legitimate concerns by instituting criminal prosecution, it diminishes the rule of law and undermines democracy. The time has come for this country to do away with criminal defamation, which public officials have resorted to as a sword to persecute, silence and ban accountability demands from citizens.
Today, HRNJ-Uganda announces its resolve to fight the law of criminal defamation and calls on all stakeholders to join in this fight.
Lets unite in defence of media freedom and journalist’s rights


ROBERT SSEMPALA,
NATIONAL COORDINATOR.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, journalist covering epidemic outbreak assaulted by health ministry officials


Mityana, 14th/October/2014; a Vision Group journalist, Luke Kagiri, was on 11th October, assaulted by two men claiming to be Ministry of Health security officers as he covered a story of a man who is suspected to have died from Marburg. His camera was destroyed in the process by one of the men, Nkogyo Joseph who was traveling in a ministry of health vehicle. Another journalist, Enock Matovu of the Nation Media Group’s NTV used the rear gate of the hospital to escape the attackers.
Kagiri, a Board member of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview that he was attacked by two men who were traveling in a Ministry of Health vehicle Registration number UG 3803/M as he approached the medical workers at Mityana Hospital to find out the cause of death of the unidentified man, “He warned me against taking any coverage, lest he breaks my video camera. He immediately stepped forward and slapped me on the left cheek, he kicked me and I fell down. When I got up, I just walked out of the hospital, where he together with his accomplice pursued me further. The other guy got hold of me, pushed me on the ground and started beating me as Nkogyo repeatedly hit my camera on the ground; he destroyed it beyond repair. The duo fled the scene upon arrival of commercial cyclists who came to my rescue,” Kagiri narrated.
Kagiri said that the cyclists chased after the vehicle in which the duo was traveling which forced them to branch off to Mityana police post. Surprisingly, Nkogyo further assaulted Kagiri by slapping him four times in the presence of the police. They later deposited the destroyed camera at the police. “I used the opportunity to open up a case of ‘assault and malicious damage to property’. The two were immediately released on bond.
The Ministry of Health could not own or disown the said attackers, “I have no details of those persons, I have just heard about the said attack of the journalist in rumors, but that’s something we can investigate. Am waiting for the journalist to call me,” The Ministry spokesperson, Rukia told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview. The ministry has however ruled out any Marburg outbreak in the country.
The area police spokesperson, Phillip Mukasa declined to comment on the status of the investigations into this matter, “ Am not aware of this matter, no one has informed me about it since I was away in another district, but let me follow it up.” He told HRNJ-Uganda
The police should expedite investigations into this matter and bring the perpetrators to book. It’s not clear why the duo were blocking any coverage of the matter if indeed they were from the health ministry. The ministry should come clean on Nkogyo and his accomplice who took the law in their hands. HRNJ-Uganda will ensure that justice is delivered in this matter,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda alert, journalist covering epidemic outbreak assaulted by health ministry officials


Mityana, 14th/October/2014; a Vision Group journalist, Luke Kagiri, was on 11th October, assaulted by two men claiming to be Ministry of Health security officers as he covered a story of a man who is suspected to have died from Marburg. His camera was destroyed in the process by one of the men, Nkogyo Joseph who was traveling in a ministry of health vehicle. Another journalist, Enock Matovu of the Nation Media Group’s NTV used the rear gate of the hospital to escape the attackers.
Kagiri, a Board member of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview that he was attacked by two men who were traveling in a Ministry of Health vehicle Registration number UG 3803/M as he approached the medical workers at Mityana Hospital to find out the cause of death of the unidentified man, “He warned me against taking any coverage, lest he breaks my video camera. He immediately stepped forward and slapped me on the left cheek, he kicked me and I fell down. When I got up, I just walked out of the hospital, where he together with his accomplice pursued me further. The other guy got hold of me, pushed me on the ground and started beating me as Nkogyo repeatedly hit my camera on the ground; he destroyed it beyond repair. The duo fled the scene upon arrival of commercial cyclists who came to my rescue,” Kagiri narrated.
Kagiri said that the cyclists chased after the vehicle in which the duo was traveling which forced them to branch off to Mityana police post. Surprisingly, Nkogyo further assaulted Kagiri by slapping him four times in the presence of the police. They later deposited the destroyed camera at the police. “I used the opportunity to open up a case of ‘assault and malicious damage to property’. The two were immediately released on bond.
The Ministry of Health could not own or disown the said attackers, “I have no details of those persons, I have just heard about the said attack of the journalist in rumors, but that’s something we can investigate. Am waiting for the journalist to call me,” The Ministry spokesperson, Rukia told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview. The ministry has however ruled out any Marburg outbreak in the country.
The area police spokesperson, Phillip Mukasa declined to comment on the status of the investigations into this matter, “ Am not aware of this matter, no one has informed me about it since I was away in another district, but let me follow it up.” He told HRNJ-Uganda
The police should expedite investigations into this matter and bring the perpetrators to book. It’s not clear why the duo were blocking any coverage of the matter if indeed they were from the health ministry. The ministry should come clean on Nkogyo and his accomplice who took the law in their hands. HRNJ-Uganda will ensure that justice is delivered in this matter,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

Monday, October 13, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Court fixes hearing date in Journalist’s ‘obstruction’ case


Kampala, 13th/October/2014; The Magistrate’s Court at the Law Development Center in Kampala has fixed the 12th of November to hear a case where HRNJ-U Board Chairperson Mulindwa Mukasa, a journalist with the Associated Press is accused of ‘obstruction’ by the Wandegeya Police Station Commander, Julius Caesar Tusingwire.
This was after court presided over by the Senior Principal Magistrate Grade 1, Shwanda Nkore Jolly overruled a preliminary objection by Mulindwa through his Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde to dismiss the case on grounds that service of criminal summons was improper, occasioning a miscarriage of justice as he was served through a text message by the investigation officer through a third party. Nkore, in her ruling, howewver stated that the process of service did not occasion a miscarriage of justice.
There is no miscarriage of justice occasioned by the failure of police or a process server to file an affidavit of service. The case first came up for trial on the 15th day of July but the accused was not in court. Prosecution prayed for criminal summons which were duly issued for the accused to appear on the 30th of July. The accused appeared on this date and took plea; therefore the objection has been overtaken by events. However, a complaint should have been raised had a warrant of arrest been issued,” ruled Nkore
Prosecution led by Naluzze Aisha Batala told court that the investigations into the matter are complete and therefore prayed for a hearing date. Catherine Anite, counsel for the accused asked court to avail her with a copy of the prosecution file so as to prepare for defence.
It is alleged that on 26th November 2013, Mulindwa obstructed a police officer, Julius Caesor Tusingwire from arresting a suspect at Wandegeya police station. Prior to these criminal charges, Mulindwa dragged Tusingwire to the High Court praying for his dismissal from the police force, over inhumane and degrading treatment, a case scheduled for hearing on the 13th of November 2014 before Justice Lydia Mugambe.
We believe that this case should have been dismissed due to failure by the police to apply the law on proper service. Court should ensure that laws are religiously observed. HRNJ-Uganda will support Mulindwa through this court process as this case was instituted by the police in bad faith, it’s a tramped up charge which we must fight to the end,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Journalist convicted of criminal defamation


Kalangala, 3rd/October /2014; A Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) radio journalist, Ronald Ssembuusi has been convicted of criminal defamation by Kalangala Grade 1 Magistrate for voicing a story on November 17, 2011  implicating the former District Chairman Daniel Kikoola in the theft of solar panels donated by African Development Bank.
A statement implicating a person in the commission of a criminal offence and implies that the person is likely to be a suspect is definitely false and defamatory. At common law, a statement is defamatory if its natural and usual meaning is defamatory. For a matter to be defamatory, it also has to be false. Counsel for the accused talked about what she considered inconsistencies or lies by the witnesses. The most important piece of evidence was that the information was published about the complainant by the accused and the witnesses listened to the news. Other inconsistencies that counsel pointed on all the witnesses did not in any way affect this substantive evidence given. ” the trial magistrate Kenneth Gimugu held in a judgment read by Twakirye Samuel the new magistrate, in the absence of the accused.
He argued Ssembuusi’s counsel Catherine Anite dwelt extensively on the importance of freedom of speech and media but the case before court was not about the constitutionality of the offence and the constitutional court decided that section 179 of the Penal Code Act is a safeguard against the infringement of a person’s reputation.

He added; “In the premises, I find that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and I find the accused guilty and convict him accordingly,” Gimugu ruled.
Sentence will be passed on October 17 2014 by the new magistrate, Samuel Twakyire, who ordered his sureties to produce him in Court on that day otherwise they will be committed to prison or forfeit their bond of shillings 1,000,000 each.
Ssembuusi, was on 3/12/2011 charged with criminal defamation contrary to section 179 and 180 (1) of the Penal Code Act for reporting that about 40 solar panels out the 80 donated to Kalangala district by the African Development to pump safe water went missing. The story alleged that Dan Kikoola, the former district chairman was a suspect in the 'disappearance' of the missing solar panels.
. It is unfortunate that court is determined to punish a messenger for airing a genuine concern of misappropriation of public resources by public officials. Those entrusted to manage public funds must account, the only way to do this is through the media and courts must support not stifle the process. Criminal defamation is an obstacle, it has been outlawed in many progressive jurisdictions, and Uganda should not remain behind,” said Ssempala Robert National coordinator HRNJ adding “we shall offer our full support to Ssembuusi, as we prepare to appeal the verdict”. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Hearing of a ‘Disobedience of lawful orders’ case against a journalist fails to take off


Kasangati, 23rd/September/2014; A Vision Group journalist, Adrian Bwanika Bbaale has on 23rd September, asked court to dismiss a case in which the Kasangati based police accuses him of ‘Disobedience of lawful orders’. This was after the State Attorney prosecuting the matter failed to turn-up in court.
Bwanika, through his lawyers Catherine Anite and Kirabira Tonny Raymond prayed to the Grade 2 Magistrate Court at Kasangati presided over by His Worship Okoth Richard Loo, to withdraw the charges as prosecution seems to have lost interest in the matter as evidenced by their absence in Court.
On the 2nd of September, Bwanika was arrested and remanded to jail on allegations that he disobeyed lawful orders of a police officer on duty, Detective Assistant Yaye Paul at Kasangaati police station in Wakiso district. Prosecution led by one Rachael told court on that date that investigations into the matter were complete, and accordingly, court fixed 23rd of September for the hearing.
The court adjourned the matter to 07th October, 2014.
The State should withdraw this matter since it has failed to turn up to prosecute the case. The police should desist from instituting tramped up charges against journalists who seek and impart information deemed critical of the force.” said HRNJ-Uganda’s National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, award winning artist apologizes to journalist over violent attack


L-R EDRIISA MUSUUZA AND ISAAC KATENDE
Kampala, 18th/September/2014; A renowned Ugandan artist, Edriisa Musuuza popularly known as Eddie Kenzo has made a public apology to a Dembe FM journalist and presenter, Isaac Katenda aka Kasuku over a violent attack on him at a pre-concert press conference on 11th September 2014. Kenzo has been under fire since he severally punched the journalist at Centenary Park, in Kampala.
The press conference attended by prominent Uganda artists, at Hotel Africana in Kampala saw the two reconciling. Kasuku said he had forgiven Kenzo, “We have agreed to certain terms and settled the matter amicably. He called a press conference and apologized. Am very grateful to HRNJ-Uganda, and am going to become a very big advocate of you guys at HRNJ; whenever you need me, just call on me, you have my full support and backing. I appreciate you so much for the work you have done for me because it has not been easy for me to get justice. I attribute this achievement to your tireless work.” Kasuku amusedly told HRNJ-Uganda.
HRNJ-Uganda engaged the police leadership over failure to summon or arrest Kenzo for assault five days after the ugly incident. This provoked the police to immediately summon Kenzo, “We are sorry for the delay to act but now we are going to summon him, and if he delays to report, I will deploy my men to arrest him and detain him until he appears in court.” A senior police officer told the HRNJ-Uganda team during a meeting with the police over failure by the police to act.
Kenzo’s Manager, Jjuuko Hannington, speaking on phone, told HRNJ-Uganda that the two had agreed to make peace, “They agreed on the modalities and reconciled, they have agreed to withdraw the case from police, they have agreed on everything.” He said.
HRNJ-Uganda is happy that the two embraced the Alternative Dispute Resolution process to amicably settle this matter. However, HRNJ-Uganda warns against the dangers of trading off criminality with money as this practice entrenches the culture of impunity with perpetrators buying off their victims.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Human Rights Commission hears more evidence in journalist’s case

Kampala, 17th/September/2014, The Human Rights Commission has continued to hear evidence in a case where Gideon Tugume, a journalist previously working with Capital F.M sued the Attorney General for damages accruing from injuries he sustained after being allegedly shot by the bodyguard to the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura in 2011, while covering the return of Dr. Kiiza Besigye from treatment in Nairobi.

The Tribunal heard testimony from Fred Seggawa, the second complainant’s witness who said that he was the first person who helped Gideon on the day that he was shot. “I was with Gideon and other journalists covering the return of Dr. Kiiza Besigye from Nairobi. Suddenly, I heard a gunshot and when I turned, I saw Gideon down on the ground. He told me to touch his leg and asked whether there was blood. I touched his leg and told him there was blood. I then called the Police ambulance which took him to Mulago hospital, before informing his wife and workmates”.

During the hearing, Gideon brought his family as ordered by Commissioner on the 21st of August for identification. The matter was adjourned to a date that will be communicated, for hearing of expert evidence. The complainant is represented by Catherine Anite, while, Adrole Richard represents the State.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, award winning artist under fire for violent attack of a journalist


Kampala, 12th/September/2014; a renowned Ugandan artist, Edriisa Musuuza popularly known as Eddie Kenzo pounced on a Dembe FM journalist and presenter, Isaac Katenda aka Kasuku and showered him with several blows at press conference at Centenary Park, in Kampala on 11th/September/2014, accusing him of asking negative questions. The journalist wants Kenzo arrested and charged with assault.
He has had beef against me since 2011, accusing me of unfavorable reporting. When I asked him questions at the press conference, he lost his temper, jumped over the table and attacked me; he landed me several punches which pushed me on the ground. I did not fight back. He hit me on the head and neck, until I was saved by the owner of the venue and other people at the press conference who restrained him. I went for medication and later reported a case of assault at Kira Road Police Station. I want him arrested and tried in court. He hit me so hard, am feeling a lot of pain.” Kasuku told HRNJ-Uganda.
Two of Kasuku’ witnesses have since recorded statements at the police as investigations into the matter are going on. A cross-section of artists, human rights activists and media practitioners have condemned Kenzo’s violent attack of the journalist.
HRNJ-Uganda condemns the rude, inhumane and degrading attack on the journalist at a press conference which the journalist had been assigned to cover. Kenzo should not take the law in his hands. The police should arrest Kenzo, expeditiously investigate the matter and have Kenzo presented to court. HRNJ-Uganda is taking lead in following up this matter to ensure that justice prevails.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala

Thursday, September 11, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Journalists challenge ban to cover court proceedings.



Kampala, 9th/September/2014, The High Court at Kampala has started hearing a case in which journalists under their umbrella body; Uganda Court Reporters Association (UCRA) are challenging a decision by the Buganda Road Court Chief Magistrate, Lillian Bucyana, banning the press and the general public from attending the proceedings against a police officer Ronald Poteri. The State accuses Poteri of leaking to the public ‘sensitive’ information, implicating the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura in meddling in partisan politics.

Through its lawyers, Catherine Anite, Isaac Ssemakadde Kimaze and Peter Kibilango, UCRA told Court presided over by Justice Lydia Mugambe, that the learned trial magistrate did not address her mind to the constitutional principles of open justice and freedom of expression, which includes freedom of the press to publicize court proceedings. They further argued that there was no evidence relied upon by the trial magistrate showing that a public hearing would be prejudicial to morality, public order or national security.

The Attorney General represented by Oburu Odoi asked court to dismiss the application unless it finds that the trial magistrate violated the provisions of the Constitution. The matter was adjourned to 17th October, 2014 for ruling.

“Journalists play an integral duty in enhancing public knowledge and appreciation of the workings of the court, thereby playing a watch-dog role in the dispensation of justice. We appreciate the fact that this matter has been handled expeditiously, and we hope that the open court principle will be upheld,” said, the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.