African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), an independent non-governmental organisation committed to promoting excellence in journalism and communication across Africa has said government’s actions against Red Pepper are neither reasonable nor justifiable in a free and democratic society.
ACME has revealed that the move against Red Pepper is part of a pattern of state actions geared at silencing dissent and free speech in Uganda.
The body has further noted that although a section of Ugandans “may not agree with Red Pepper’s methods of work, tone and choice of content”, journalists, media owners, civil society actors, politicians and all those who believe in the freedom of speech should stand with the tabloid.
These remarks were contained in a press statement issued by ACME today, 7 December.
“Our defense of the tabloid is not to endorse its approach to journalism, but rather to highlight what Uganda’s Supreme Court has called “the greater danger of smothering alternative views of fact or opinion,”ACME executive director, Dr Peter Mwesige said.
“Those who are celebrating the silencing of Red Pepper should also remember that some of the offences preferred against the directors and editors, such as “offensive communication”, are as much a threat to ordinary Ugandans who are increasingly using computer-assisted communication. If these charges are allowed to stand against Red Pepper, we shall all be in trouble because they can be easily preferred and allowed to stand against any of us,” the organisation said.
Kampala Metropolitan police commander, Frank Mwesigwa on 21 November confirmed a police raid and arrest of over eight Red Pepper journalists at their offices in Namanve, Mukono district. The arrested, editors and top administrators include Richard Tusiime, Johnson Musinguzi, Patrick Mugumya, and Arinatiwe Rugyendo. Others are Richard Kintu, Ben Byarabaha, Francis Tumusiime and James Mujuni.
They were accused of having published a story that injured the reputations of President Museveni, his brother Gen Salim Saleh and security minister Lt.Gen Henery Tumukunde – “subjecting the three people to hatred, contempt and ridicule.”
The journalists where on 27 Novemeber denied bail and remanded to Luzira Prison.