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Journalists under siege by sedition law

A Ugandan journalist has been accused of sedition after writing two articles that speculated whether the Ugandan government was involved in July bomb attacks in Kampala, report the Human Rights Network of Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The sedition law is routinely used against dissident journalists. More than a dozen Ugandan journalists are currently being prosecuted under the law.

Writing for the online magazine "Uganda Record", journalist Timothy Kalyegira published two stories in July: "Who set off the Uganda bombs?" and "Why is Rwanda not condemning Al-Shabaab?" The articles cited Rwandan intelligence sources who blame Ugandan intelligence for being behind the bombings. (Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the 11 July bomb blasts.)

Kalyegira was arrested on 2 August and released on bond. On 4 August, his home was searched; police confiscated his laptop, passport and phone. Kalyegira is the first online journalist to be accused of sedition in Uganda.

"The law not only infringes on the rights to freedom of expression, conscience and opinion but it bars the public from checking those in power and holding them accountable for their actions," said HRNJ-Uganda, an IFEX interim member.

A new report by HRNJ-Uganda says journalists who report for electronic media or express alternative political views on talk shows face greater risks. More than 30 journalists were subject to abuse and violations between January and June 2010, says the "Mid-Year Press Freedom Index Report 2010". During this time, eight journalists faced trial for sedition. The report also provides details of journalists arrested and assaulted for photographing police brutality, and journalists arrested and tortured while covering a by-election.

In addition, the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) reports that on 14 July, the Ugandan parliament passed the Interception of Communication Bill, which permits government security agents to wiretap private conversations, allegedly to combat terrorism in the country.

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