CRIMINAL LIBEL CASE AGAINST CBS JOURNALIST FAILS TO TAKE OFF

09th/Mar/2012: A case in which former Kalangala district chairperson Daniel Kikoola accuses a journalist Ronald Ssembuusi of criminal libel has failed to take off and adjourned to 20th of this month.

Kikoola alleges that Ssembuusi, a correspondent for the Buganda Kingdom’ private Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) radio for Kalangala district in the Central Uganda region defamed him when he reported a story which aired on CBS radio on 17th/November/2011 that Kikoola was being investigated for alleged involvement in the disappearance of solar panels.

 

The matter before Grade One Magistrate Gimungu Kenneth Kabiri was adjourned because prosecution failed to adduce evidence that Ssembuusi had been served with the criminal summons which were issued on 24th/ Feb/2012. The matter had been adjourned to 7th/Mar/2012 to enable prosecution serve the accused, but service was not affected. Ssembuusi is represented by HRNJ-Uganda lawyer, Catherine Anite.

 

Anite objected to the commencement of the trial because the accused had not been served yet he has a constitutional right to a fair hearing where he must be informed of the nature of the offence and be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense.

 

Over 80 solar panels were donated by the African Development Bank through the ministry of water and environment in 2010 to help circulate clean and safe water in Kalangala Town Council. Unfortunately, about 40 (forty) went missing. Since November 2011, police have recovered about 21 of the missing solar panels. The bank provides grants to African governments and private companies investing in African countries.

Kikoola, reportedly called Ssembuusi on November 21 and invited him to his home, but the journalist declined the invitation. HRNJ-Uganda intervened and caused meetings and telephone call conversations between police and Mr. Kikoola.

 

Ssembuusi reported that on 23rd/Nov/2011 at around 11:30am he received an anonymous call telling him to back off his reporting about the disappearance of solar panel. This went on for about a week.  Kikoola allegedly called Ssembuusi repeatedly and, during his last call, warned him that, “something strange would happen to him,” Ssembuusi said.

 

“Somebody called me on a private number and it was a man’s voice. He alleged that he was calling from police. He said I would be kidnapped and my relatives or lawyers will not be able to trace my body in case I don’t back off from reporting on the missing solar panels” Said Ssembuusi. When HRNJ-Uganda contacted Kikoola, he confirmed having called the journalist but denied threatening him.

 

Ssembuusi reported the matter to Kalangala police station and recorded a statement but the police ignored this and never investigated into it, although the Kalangala Police OC CID Joseph Ssenabulya had assured HRNJ-Uganda that serious investigations would be undertaken. The District Police Commander (DPC) for Kalangala, Batte Godfrey Bolingo was also implicated in the theft.

 

“HRNJ-Uganda welcomes the adjournment, and believes that the principles of fair hearing will be accorded. This is a very sensitive case given the fact that the police have not been free from suspicion in the matter, since they failed to undertake investigating the journalist’s death threats. So we implore the court to impartially handle the matter and deliver justice to Ssembuusi” Said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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