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Security forces raid newspaper's offices, detain staff

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 24 May 2011 - Security forces have raided "Ggwanga" newspaper's offices and arrested four employees.

The forces arrested the paper's managing director, Kizito Sserumaga, editor Alex Lubwama, administrator Patricia Serebe and security guard Lukyamuzi Peter.

The 20-man raid, commanded by old Kampala police station boss Siraje Bakaleke, was allegedly conducted on the grounds that the paper had materials which might "incite violence".

HRNJ-Uganda has learned that the security forces conducted a search after raiding the paper's offices at around 10:00 a.m., locking all staff in one room and confiscating their mobile phones.

A network server and four sets of documents, including a Buganda conference magazine, leaflets for Activists for Change, edited stories and handwritten documents were seized.

"The security operatives cordoned off the premises and restricted movement of staff from one place to another for more than three hours. All of our mobile phones were confiscated but later returned after the search," said Lubwama.

It is not yet clear what charges the staff face. The four were loaded into a police patrol car and taken to Old Kampala police station, where they are currently being detained. By 6:00 p.m. some of the suspects had recorded statements.

"The arrest of our colleagues is part of a wider campaign to harass journalists and silence voices who are critical of the government of president Museveni. Dozens of journalists have been reporting on bail or police bond for many years without their cases being concluded," said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala.

He said such acts have had a chilling effect on the work of journalists, including self-censorship for fear of being persecuted.

HRNJ-Uganda demands that the "Ggwanga" employees be released unconditionally if no case can be found against them and if they are not brought to court within 24 hours of their arrest.

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