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Day 4: Monitor, Red Pepper remain closed

Police defy court order to vacate

Police today continued to ransack drawers, comb every inch of buildings in search of Gen David Sejusa-related documents as Daily Monitor, its sister FM stations Kfm and Dembe, and Red Pepper, remained closed for a fourth day.

The Observer has learnt that Daily Monitor is pursuing both court action and negotiations with government to get police off its Namuwongo premises. So far, police have defiantly snubbed a court order ordering them off the daily’s offices.

Negotiations are also being considered – with Internal Affairs minister Hilary Onek and possibly President Museveni – akin to those held in 2002, when the government closed the newspaper for a week.

Alex Asiimwe, Managing Director of Monitor Publications Limited, urged staff today ‘not to worry about their jobs’ during a meeting held in the parking lot. This was after the police denied staff access to their offices.

Court orders

On Wednesday, Daily Monitor secured a court order demanding that the police leave the newspaper’s premises but the police surprisingly responded by deploying more personnel and guns.

“We obtained a court order which demands the police to vacate our premises, because we feel they have overstepped their search,” Asiimwe said.

The vacation order was issued by Nakawa Grade One Magistrate Rosemary Bareebe. She wrote that “in the process of execution of the said warrant, the mandate given by the warrant was overstepped.”

Bareebe had granted police the original permission to search the premises on Monday. With the order in hand, Daily Monitor management had told staff to resume work on Thursday, only to be blocked by police. Asked why they didn’t obey the court order, Ibin Senkumbi, the Kampala Metropolitan spokesman, said their legal team was still scrutinising the court document.

“The latest is that they [police] are still studying the court order, and then they will respond accordingly. We are pursuing all avenues to see that we resume work,” said Asiimwe.

“We thought we would be in our premises and announce that we are resuming work but we are unable, let’s cooperate with the authority; you go and work from wherever, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Asiimwe told staff.

Onek told Parliament on Wednesday that Red Pepper, Daily Monitor, Kfm and Dembe fm were not closed but only asked to halt their operations.

Police claim they are looking for a document authored by Sejusa, in which he calls for an investigation into an alleged plot to assassinate senior government officials opposed to the perceived presidential aspirations of Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, President Museveni’s son.

At Red Pepper, the police are reportedly searching for press releases from Sejusa’s lawyers, which we understand the newspaper management handed over, but that has still not helped.

“So far the police have searched through all documents and computers in the different newsrooms at KFM, Dembe FM and newspaper section. Nothing has been recovered,” Asiimwe said.

Agents arrested

Uganda Law Society (ULS) President Ruth Sebatindira said in a statement released today that government should “immediately and unconditionally permit the said media houses to resume their operations.”

On Wednesday, Red pepper managed to publish a paper from an undisclosed location but according to Arinaitwe Rugyendo, the newspaper’s marketing director, the police blocked its distribution, arresting vendors and agents who handled it.

Rugyendo said the vendors were forced to identify the agents who had given them the papers. Joan Kyomuhendo, one of the agents on Nkurumah road, was reportedly picked up and taken to CIID offices for interrogation.

“It is our newspaper and in our state of mind we thought that the search is not affecting our publication. We are still publishing on line because the warrant does not stop us,” Rugyendo said.

“This whole thing is a circus; because these people [police] don’t know what they want. We were publishing press releases from Sejusa’s lawyers but they are looking for the letter. We think there’s something else going on above this letter,” he added.

Rugyendo said they would not be publishing again until the impasse ends. Meanwhile, Mulwani Taminwa, chairperson of Uganda Consumers’ Protection Awareness Association (UCPAA), has also called upon government to open the closed media houses.

dtlumu@observer.ug
geoffreyaraali@gmail.com

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