The national coordinator of Uganda’s Human Rights Network for Journalists, (HRNJ-U) says his group plans to file a court complaint Wednesday to force the government to allow the re-opening of Monitor Publications and its related media businesses.
Geoffrey Ssebaggala says President Yoweri Museveni’s government has eroded media rights and freedoms in the name of national security.
Ssebaggala says both Attorney General Peter Nyombi and General Kale Kayihura, the inspector general of police, have failed to ensure compliance with a court ruling that ordered the police to vacate the premises of Monitor Publications.
“We are witnessing a serious attack on the rule of law in this country [and] we are experiencing the increasing levels of impunity. Even when a court issues an order for police to vacate the premises of newspapers, they refuse and are adamant to do so,” said Ssebaggala.
The police say their investigation will continue despite the court order. The government contends that the country’s security was compromised when the newspaper, Daily Monitor, published a letter written by an army general asking for an investigation into Mr. Museveni’s alleged presidential succession plan. The administration denies there is a succession plan.
“We are saying enough is enough. First of all, Kayihura and his men must be summoned by a court to go and give reason why he continues to muzzle the press,” said Ssebaggala.
But a government spokesman says the government will continue with investigations into a suspected security breach despite criticism that it is violating the constitution.
“That is not true that the government is stifling freedom of the press or freedom of the people of Uganda,” said government spokesman Fred Opolot. “The police and the government [are] ensuring that whatever it does [has] to be lawful. And again when an issue compromises national security, it has to be investigated.”
Ssebaggala says the police appear to only serve senior officials of the government.
“Whose interests are they serving, [are] they serving an individual or they are serving citizens? Asked Ssebaggala, “They are attacking the fibers of journalism. You cannot compel journalists to reveal to you their sources of information. We cannot divulge our sources because we will be endangering them…what we are saying here is media houses should be given an opportunity to do their work.”
Ssebaggala says his group also plans to file complaints in international courts asking them to intervene in the ongoing standoff between the Ugandan government and the media.
“We will try the regional court, and if the regional court fails we will go up to the U.N. We are setting a precedent whether they like it or not, and they will be answerable any day they leave power, because we will continue to tell them the wrongs they have done until justice comes by,” said Ssebaggala.