Press release

Uganda: Violent attacks on protesters as letter crisis continues

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ARTICLE 19

28 May 2013

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ARTICLE 19 condemns the violent attacks by the Ugandan police on protesters who have been demonstrating against the forced closure of newspapers and radio stations in the country. Tear gas canisters were fired at protesters in Kampala and police officers physically attacked protesters, including journalists and human rights defenders. The police have also ignored a court order requiring them to vacate the premises of Red Pepper Publications and Monitor Publications.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the police to refrain from the use of force against peaceful protesters. The police must respect the rule of law and abide by a court order requiring them to vacate the premises of Monitor Publications and Red Pepper Publications. ARTICLE 19 urges the Ugandan authorities to allow media organisations to carry out their work.

ARTICLE 19 calls for the immediate release of Mulindwa Mukasa and William Ntege.

Three journalists were arrested during the demonstration on 28 May 2013. Mulindwa Mukasa and William Ntege (both from WBS TV) remain in police custody and have yet to record statements. Geoffrey Sebagala, the national coordinator of the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ Uganda), which is a partner of ARTICLE 19 Kenya, was arrested but later released.

Mulindwa Mukasa and William Ntege were beaten by police during the demonstration. A number of other protesters were also attacked, including Bahati Remmy from NBS TV and Sudhir Byaruhanga from NTV.

“This is absolutely unacceptable. Under international law, policing includes safeguarding the exercise of democratic activities. This means that the police must respect and protect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

Just over a week ago (20 May 2013), ARTICLE 19 raised concern that the police had forced the closure of the Monitor Publications, Red Pepper Publications and the radio stations 93.3 KFM and 90.4 Dembe FM. Police officers have been searching for a letter at the centre of a political row in the country, which the Monitor had published. The letter is alleged to have been written by General David Sejusa and sent to the Internal Security Organisation, asking them to investigate reports about plans to murder military officials who oppose President Yoweri Museveni’s son in succeeding him.

Last week, the management team at Monitor Publications obtained a court order requesting the police to vacate their premises. This removed an earlier court order that had been issued to the police allowing them to search the premises. ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the police have however ignored the ruling of the court, remaining on the premises of both Monitor and Red Pepper, and have declared these premises to be crime scenes.

“Uganda is the chair of the East African Community and an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) - it is a country that claims to promote the rule of law and freedom of expression. Here we see the police defying the rule of law and launching a vicious attack on freedom of expression; closing down the printing presses, switching off the radio and violently suppressing peaceful protests,” added Maina.

To read ARTICLE 19's 20th May press release please click here >