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Ugandan Police Shut Down Newspaper Offices

Policemen stand guard outside the Daily Monitor newspaper's offices in Kampala on May 20, 2013

Policemen stand guard outside the Daily Monitor newspaper's offices in Kampala on May 20, 2013

Police in Uganda's capital have closed down the offices of the Daily Monitor. According to the Daily Monitor's senior correspondent, police have declared the premises of their publication a crime scene and are doing a thorough search of the building.

Earlier this month, the Daily Monitor published a series of stories about Uganda's coordinator of intelligence services, General David Sejusa. The general has demanded an investigation into alleged plots to assassinate key military and government officials who are seen to oppose President Yoweri Museveni’s alleged plans to install his son as his successor.

Last week, the Criminal Investigation Department interrogated the authors of the story and the managing editor of the Monitor for three days, pushing them to disclose the source of their information. They declined.

In response, police obtained a court order telling the journalists to name their source, and also authorizing police to search for a letter written by the general that is held in the publication's offices.

Government spokesman Fred Opolot says the country’s security was compromised when the newspaper, published the letter, “It is alleged by the police [the letter] was doctored by some of the media houses and that prompted an investigation," Opolot said.

Daily Monitor reporter Tabu Butagira told VOA about the police takeover of the newspaper's offices.

“Everything is calm, but tense, very tense ... At the moment no staff is allowed to leave the premises and the police have taken over the charge of the gate and now they are at the printing press which they want to disconnect it,” Butagira said.

In a post on Facebook, Ugandan police said "We shall continue 2 occupy & search Monitor and Red Pepper premises until we retrieve the said letter of Gen.Sejusa."

Security forces have taken off the air the Daily Monitor's sister radio stations KFM and Dembe FM. Butagira says there is a systematic search of drawers and lockers, and police have threatened to confiscate cameras and phones.

He says the paper's refusal to disclose the source of their information has agitated security officials.

“So because the paper has been ... unwilling to disclose the source of its information there is suddenly unexpected, high-handed response by [the] government by deploying the police and plain clothes security guards who have now besieged the Monitor head office. They are clearly interested in finding out, I guess, how the newspaper acquired information about the spy master’s letter to his subordinate,” Butagira said.

General Sejusa has not denied authoring the letter. Part of the letter reads “I gave detailed intelligence information of some of those claims, like the so-called project of the son being fast tracked outside the law to hold serious positions, many of which he may not be qualified by the set standards, like experience in command and seniority.”

The letter also states that the succession issue is becoming a source of intrigue in the army.

President Museveni, who is in his late 60s, has led Uganda since taking power in a 1986 coup. His son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi, commands the special forces group responsible for presidential security.

VOA's Peter Clottey contributed to this report from Washington.

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