The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has demanded the Uganda police force to immediately drop their criminal investigations into the Daily Monitor newspaper.
CPJ instead instead has called on the force to guarantee that the media can cover security forces’ alleged misconduct without retaliation.
On May 31, the police Criminal Investigations Department summoned Tony Glencross, the managing director of the Daily Monitor’s parent company, Nation Media Group-Uganda, and Tabu Butagira, the group’s managing editor, to record statements as part of a police investigation into allegations of criminal libel, incitement to violence, and false news publication, according to reports by the newspaper and the BBC.
The Criminal Investigations department (CID) is looking into a May 31 report by the newspaper detailing the findings of a BBC documentary investigation into the deaths of civilians during election-related protests in November 2020, which the Daily Monitor said vindicated its reporting from early 2021, according to those sources. The BBC report included videos allegedly showing security personnel indiscriminately shooting and killing civilians.
But the summoned duo declined to attend the questioning that had been scheduled for Wednesday June 2, because Glencross was in COVID-19 quarantine and Butagira was on a field assignment.
Glencross told the Daily Monitor that they would “obviously comply” with the police summons. Butagira told CPJ via messaging app that they planned to respond to the summons at a later date.
“Instead of thoroughly investigating allegations that security forces killed civilians during protests last year, Ugandan police are targeting the messenger by summoning journalists who have covered such allegations,” said CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo.
“Authorities should drop their investigation into the Daily Monitor, which is a transparent attempt to intimidate the paper.” he said.
In a 2000 ruling, Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck the penal code’s false news law; CPJ could not immediately determine how police intended to pursue an investigation under that annulled law. Butagira told CPJ that it was “strange” that police were relying on a “non-existent law” in their case.
Convictions for criminal libel are punishable by up to two years in prison, and incitement convictions can carry jail terms of up to three years, according to the Ugandan penal code.
CPJ said it failed to get answers from police regarding the subject.
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