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Uganda18 October 2002

Police withdraw from The Monitor

The police guard around the offices of The Monitor was removed on 16 October and most of the material seized five days earlier returned. The paper reappeared on 18 October. Managing editor Charles Onyango Obbo and deputy news editor Wanyama Wangah pleaded not guilty when they appeared in court on 16 October charged with reporting "false news" and publishing "information prejudicial to the security of the state." They were freed on bail of one and a half million shillings ($800) each. Frank Nyakairu, who wrote the offending article, was brought back to Kampala later on 16 October from the northern town of Gulu, where he had been detained. He appeared in court the next day and risks up to seven years in prison. He was freed on bail of two and a half million shillings ($1,340). When the removal of the police guard was announced, information minister Basoga Nsadhu warned journalists to obey the country’s laws and customs.


10.11.2002 - Journalist disappears and daily paper offices searched

Reporters Without Borders today condemned Uganda’s security forces for searching the offices of the country’s only independent newspaper, The Monitor, without permission yesterday and preventing publication of today’s issue. It also expressed concern about the army’s reported kidnapping of one of the paper’s journalists and called for his immediate release.

"The attitude of the security forces is a serious threat to press freedom," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to President Yoweri Museveni. He urged him to ensure such incidents were not repeated and that journalists were free to do their job without threats and arbitrary searches.

Police searched the paper’s offices without a warrant on 10 October after publication of an article saying rebels in the north of the country had shot down an army helicopter. Police were looking for the article’s author, Frank Nyakairu, and any material concerning the report. Nyakairu was kidnapped by army troops in the north today, the paper’s staff said.

Press freedom has deteriorated in Uganda since the beginning of this year. A journalism student was killed by police during an opposition demonstration in January and a strict new anti-terrorist law likely to lead to abuses was passed in March.



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