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Editors of independent daily "The Monitor" acquitted

(NDIMA/IFEX) - The following is a 6 March 2001 NDIMA press release:

Nairobi, 6 March 2001

'Monitor' editors acquitted - state fails to prove paper's malice

Three editors of Uganda's independent daily 'The Monitor' were acquitted of sedition charges on March 6, 2001, after a Kampala court found them innocent.

The two and a half hour judgement was delivered at the Buganda Road courts in the city centre.

"We are happy that however long it has taken, we have emerged victorious, I believe that all this is the result of having obsolete and draconian laws that are not in tune with the Constitution," Monitor News Editor David Ouma Balikowa said.

The trio, Managing Director Wafula Ogutu, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Charles Onyango-Obbo and Mr Balikowa have been on trial for nearly two years on charges of sedition and publishing a false report.

The charges stemmed from a nude picture published by the paper in May 1999 that showed men in army uniform forcefully shaving a woman in the pubic region. The prosecution said the publication was malicious and intended to incite the public against the president. The editors were also charged with publishing a false statement knowingly with the same intent.

In a judgement lasting one and a half hours however, the Magistrate's Court, presided over by Grade One magistrate Joshua Maruku, said it had failed to find the said intention because the State was not synonymous with the President. The court observed that the contentious picture was about individual officers on the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces and its opinion would have been the same even if it were true that the officers shown in the picture belonged to the Uganda armed forces.

The court also ruled that the editors were not guilty of publishing a false statement because they did say that the contents of the picture were fact and the caption accompanying the picture carried a clear disclaimer about the source and contents of the picture.

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