Friday, 24 May 2013

Lawyers criticise raid on ‘Monitor’

PHOTO | MICHELE SIBILONI A protestor at the Daily Monitor newspaper poses in Kampala on May 20, 2013.
PHOTO | MICHELE SIBILONI A protestor at the Daily Monitor newspaper poses in Kampala on May 20, 2013.  AFP
Posted  Thursday, May 23  2013 at  22:00

Ugandan lawyers Thursday accused their police of using search warrants to intimidate and unlawfully shut two media houses.
Ugandan Law Society said events surrounding the closure of the Daily Monitor and the Red Pepper newspapers following searches at their offices were not conducted in accordance with the Police Act.
Law society president Ruth Sebatindira said the police obtained search warrants, which was a willingness to abide by the law, but that that was quickly abandoned once they arrived at the media houses.
“In a free and democratic society, any action by the State that is unlawful, high-handed and disproportionate to alleged infringement must be condemned,” she said in a statement.
Ms Sebatindira added that the police action interfered with the media houses’ business and infringed on the rights of the journalists to practice their profession.
On Monday, Ugandan police closed the Nation Media Group’s Daily Monitor newspaper and radio stations and declared the premises a “scene of crime”.
The offices, for the second time since 2002, were surrounded by gun-wielding policemen with an order to search for, as they claimed, Gen David Sejusa’s letter.
The officers said they had a warrant to search even the production plant for the letter.
The law society described that as intimidation of the media, stifle information flow and eliminate debate on a topical issue.
“This conduct will have a chilling effect on the enjoyment of rights and freedoms. Intimidation can also be deciphered from the threats that are allegedly being directed by the Uganda Communications Commission at other journalists,” Ms Sebatindira said.
The society called on the Uganda government to “immediately and unconditionally” permit the media houses resume publication and ensure the police observed the rule of law even when they are carrying out their responsibilities.
“Intimidating those who have the courage to act in furtherance and enjoyment of their fundamental rights or who take on the mantle to provide information to the public, is not acceptable,” Ms Sebatindira said.
It is not reasonable
She added that regardless of what the media houses were perceived to have done, there was no justification for an overbearing environment in a country whose stated objectives are the establishment of a socio-economic and political order based on unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress.
“It is not reasonable to put hundreds of people out of work for an unknown duration without legal authorisation simply on account of the search for a letter,” the statement read.

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