LIRA, 08th /June/2017; Lira Magistrates Court has dismissed for want of prosecution a case of defacement of notices and campaign posters of President Museveni against Mungu Richard Jakisa, a Radio North journalist in Lira District in Northern Uganda.
“I agree with counsel for the accused persons that the accused persons have been appearing before this honorable court since 15th February 2016 and continuing to require the accused persons to appear before this court would be an injustice. Counsel has rightly pointed out that Article 28(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda provides for a fair hearing, and I dismiss the case under section 119(1) of the Magistrates Court Act for want for prosecution,” ruled the Lira Grade One Magistrate Kiwanuka Hilary on 7th June 2017.
This was after the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda lawyer Kenneth Ntende prayed to court to have the matter dismissed. “Your honor, a fair hearing includes a right to a fair and speedy trial, the accused persons have appeared before this honorable court for twelve consecutive times and the state has produced no single witness. Requiring the accused persons to continue appearing before this honorable court would be an injustice and an abuse of the criminal justice system. In the premise your honor, I pray that this case be dismissed for want of prosecution,” said Kenneth Ntende.
It was a moment of joy for Mungu, “I don’t have words to explain how I feel, finally am a free citizen,” Mungu told HRNJ-Uganda at the Lira court.
Prosecution led by Paul Owochi alleged that on 13th February 2016, Mungu Jakisa Richard and four others defaced President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s posters. They were charged with defacement of notices and posters contrary to section 78(2) of the Presidential Election Act.
Mungu was moderating a show where he had hosted four politicians who were analyzing issues arising from the presidential candidates’ debate held in Kampala on 13th February 2016, five days to the voting day. One of the politicians that had been hosted returned from the commercial break and told Mungu that police officers had raided the radio station. They were arrested from the radio station and taken to Lira Central Police Station where they were detained for four nights. They were released on 17th February 2017 by the Lira Magistrates Court at a cash bail of UGX 200,000 (USD56) each.
HRNJ-Uganda welcomes this court victory. This was clearly another of the many trumped up charges labeled against journalists and human rights defenders generally. It is very sad that the State has resorted to such ways of criminalizing the work of journalists as a way of intimidating them. We appeal to the judiciary to exercise its independence and deliver justice at all times.” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala.