The Red Pepper publications premises are still under siege for the third day and five Directors and three Editors are detained at the much feared Nalufenya detention centre as they continue to undergo rigorous interrogations. The security forces have also searched their respective homes.
On the evening of Tuesday 21st November 2017, the Red Pepper offices were besieged by the Counter Terrorism Unit of Uganda Police after acting on search warrant obtained by D/AIP Walya Henry Peter from Buganda Road Magistrates Court which reads in part ‘…to be searched include, laptops, desktops, CPUs, Computer accessories (electronic) and any other document related to Red Paper news publication Vol.17 no.152 of Monday 20 Nov. 2017,”.
The premises have since been declared a crime scene and guarded by the Counter Terrorism Unit of police. All production work at the premises has since come to a standstill and access is restricted to only lawyers.
Those in detention include Directors Tumusiime Richard, Arinaitwe Rugyendo, James Mujuni, Johnson Musinguzi and Editors Richard Kintu, Byarabaha Ben and Tumusiime Francis. The eight were yesterday detained at the notorious Nalufenya police station where they spent a night and were brought back to Namanve at 11:00 am for further searching and interrogation. The arrest is linked to a story published by the Red pepper alleging that President Museveni is platting to over the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.
The Red Pepper legal officer Dickens Byamukama told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that the offices were raided on Tuesday 21st November 2017 at about 4:00pm. All staff were arrested, their gadgets removed, “phones, computers, ipads, laptops were confiscated. The workers were released at 8 pm. The editors and directors were detained at Nalufenya police station at mid night after their homes were searched, “said Dickens.
He further told HRNJ-Uganda that the suspects were brought back to Red pepper offices at 11:00a.m on Wednesday from where they were interrogated and their offices searched. He was however not sure of the likely charges since none has been preferred against them.
However police in its statement indicates that “investigations are being carried under Sec. 37 of the Penal Code Act, which provides for the offence of publication of information prejudicial to security.”
HRNJ-Uganda has learnt that earlier on Tuesday 21st Nov, before the siege, the company Directors were summoned by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Jeje Odongo to report to the ministry over a story they published on Monday 20th November 2017 titled M7 plotting to overthrow Kagame.
Later in the day the paper premises were besieged. In 2013, the Red Pepper and Daily Monitor offices were raided after they published a story about a letter authored by the former coordinator of intelligence services, General David Ssejjusa. In his letter, Sejjusa was asking ISO to investigate allegations that some government and military officers are targeted for elimination for opposing an alleged Muhoozi presidency project.
‘We highly condemn the continued detention of the Red Pepper Editors and Directors at Nalufenya, a place known for hardcore criminal suspects without any justifiable reason. We believe that this is economic sabotage aimed at occasioning the media house financial loss since all its production have been stopped. The attack and closure of media houses in such a manner is uncalled for since the implicated personnel could be summoned to the police for interrogations and taken to court. Such acts violate the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of expression and the media in Uganda which we must resist against,” says the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.