Kampala, 16th/February/2012; A magistrate court in Makindye hearing a criminal libel case against two Daily Monitor journalists has adjourned the case to June 25th 2012. Henry Ochieng the Daily Monitor political editor and Angelo Izama a senior writer and consultant are accused of defaming President Museveni.
Prosecution alleges that the two journalists on December 20, 2009 unlawfully published a defamatory matter in an article that appeared in the Sunday Monitor titled: “Will the people’s power defeat President Museveni in the poll?”
The article in question discussed the risk of political violence during 2011 general elections. But the Core to the case are allegations that the article compared President Museveni’s regime to that of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos who was deposed in 1986 just a few months before Museveni came to power.
Izama was arrested and questioned about the column on December 22, 2009 and subsequently told to report to the police “media crimes” division at least once a week. Ochieng was first summoned on January 11, 2010. Both journalists spent two hours at the media crimes division before being driven to court in a police vehicle.
The duo denied the case and was released on bail of 100,000 Ugandan shillings (US$50). The case has been on mention stage since the journalists were charged on February 3, 2010. This is their tenth court appearance. Izama and Ochieng are among several Monitor journalists facing criminal charges in connection with their coverage.
Criminal libel is one of several Ugandan penal code statutes whose constitutionality is being challenged in the Supreme Court. The courts have always postponed action in such cases pending the Court decision.
Four journalists; Joachim Buwembo, Bernard Tabaire, Robert Mukasa and Emmanuel Davies Gyezaho, after being dissatisfied with the Constitutional Court ruling that upheld the offense of criminal libel, lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court arguing that criminal libel infringes on media freedom which is their fundamental right enshrined in the constitution. However, the court lacks the quorum to hear this particular petition and cases.
HRNJ-Uganda is concerned about the increasing number of journalists who are perpetually kept in court for many years on numerous charges. We call for their expeditious trial in the interest the media work.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator, Wokulira Ssebaggala.