Kampala; A media rights body, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has petitioned the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. Jeje Odongo over the continued closure of the Red Pepper publications and detention of its five Directors and Editors for almost a full month.
In a meeting which took place between the Minister and HRNJ-Uganda team led by its National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala, at the ministry headquarters in Kampala, on 14th December, 2017, the two sides discussed the prospects of releasing the journalists and re-opening of the publications premises at Namanve in Mukono district.
They also discussed and agreed to hold regular meetings with the media to take stock of the media situation in the country.
Gen. Odongo told HRNJ-Uganda that investigations into the matter are complete and that the jailed journalists would be released soon since their alleged crimes are bailable by the same court.
“Once released, the Red Pepper journalists will have to engage the government on what undertakings should be put in place for the re-opening. They will have to engage the different government departments.” the Minister said.
He said that the story published by the Red Pepper had an effect on the diplomacy and security standings of the two countries. The Red Pepper premises were besieged and its directors and editors arrested on 21st November 2017 and detained at Nalufenya for a week before they were produced to court.
The HRNJ-Uganda team comprising of the Head of Legal Affairs Diana Nandudu and the ICT officer Emmanuel Magambo told the Minister that the siege, arrest, continued closure and detention of the journalists are a great blow to freedom of expression and the media in Uganda as it instills fear within the media practitioners. Ssempala said that the continued closure amounts to economic sabotage to the Red Pepper. Ssempala underscored the need for the media to hold regular meetings with the minister to take stock of developments around the media environment. He said that impunity and political interference were still the key challenges facing the media in the country. The minister agreed to an inaugural meeting with the journalists to take place in February next year.
The meeting comes days after key different media stakeholders including the civil society, editors, media development organisations among others agreed to bear pressure on the government to release the Red Pepper journalists and re-open the publication premises or face collective stakeholders’ actions.