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May 30, 2013

Ugandans ‘Displeased, Bitter’ Over Newspaper Closure

by Peter Clottey

The managing director of Uganda’s Monitor Publications group says many citizens are reacting with bitterness despite a government’s directive, Thursday ordering the police to vacate the premises of the Monitor Publications and its related businesses.

“I get the sense there [is] a lot of bitterness when you read the social media, when you talk to people, the way the people are reacting, what is going on in parliament, people are not happy…,” said Alex Asiimwe, managing director of the Monitor Publications. “They are asking what is happening, are we degenerating or what, is what everybody is asking.”

His comments came after Internal Affairs Minister Hillary Onek, ordered police to immediately vacate the premises of Monitor Publication. Onek then urged the Monitor Publications to begin its regular operations.

Asiimwe says talks with officials of the government to allow the re-opening of the Monitor Publications and its related media businesses failed to resolve the impasse, until the internal affairs minister’s intervention.

He says his organization was under police siege for over a week despite cooperating with investigators after the Daily Monitor published a letter written by an army general asking for an investigation into President Yoweri Museveni’s alleged presidential succession plan.

“We were all certainly concerned with the shutdown, apparently almost for no very strong reasons, and so I guess that was why there is a lot of solidarity. Because it’s been viewed as an infringement on their own right, not only on the Monitor Publication,” said Asiimwe.

“We are reiterating our position, not so much because there is a journalistic principle, but, hey, we do not have the letter that they are looking for and we have told them that time and time again,” said Asiimwe.

The government argued that the publication of the army general’s “sensitive” letter compromised national security.

Several civil society and journalist association groups protested the closure and accusing the government of trying to muzzle the press and erode media rights and freedoms.
Clottey interview with Alex Asiimwe, managing director of the Monitor Publications