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Journalist released on bail, "The Monitor" newspaper to re-open but case against journalists continues

(WiPC/IFEX) - On 17 October 2002, WiPC welcomed the news that journalist Frank Nyakairu was released on bail and that "The Monitor" newspaper is to resume publication. However, the organisation remained concerned that charges are still to be preferred against the newspaper's staff.

Nyakairu, who was arrested in the northern town of Gulu on 11 October, was transferred to Kampala before being released on bail on 17 October. He has been charged with "publishing information prejudicial to national security and likely to assist the enemy in its operation and publishing false news". "The Monitor" editor-in-chief Charles Onyango-Obbo and deputy news editor Wanyama Wangah are facing the same charge. As of 17 October, it was unclear whether a third editor, Joseph Were, will also be tried for the same offence. The initial hearing against Nyakairu was scheduled for 18 October at the Buganda Road Court. The case against Onyango-Obbo and Wangah, both out on bail of 500,000 shillings (approx. US$280), opens on 12 November.

In the meantime, Minister of Information Basoga Nsadhu has issued a press release advising journalists to be mindful of national security while executing their duties. This could be interpreted as a far from oblique warning to journalists to practice self-censorship while reporting on the
war, or face the same fate as "The Monitor" staff.

On 16 October, police officers finally left "The Monitor" offices, which they had occupied for nearly a week. The newspaper's staff began repairing the computer equipment and were able to produce a website edition the next day. The newspaper itself was expected to be back in circulation on 18 October.

The actions taken by the Ugandan authorities stem from an article that appeared in the 10 October edition of "The Monitor". The piece claimed that a Ugandan army helicopter had been shot down by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) guerrillas.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:
- calling for the dropping of charges against Nyakairu, Onyango-Obbo, Wangah and Were
- urging them to return computer equipment seized in the raid and to allow "The Monitor" to publish free from fear of harassment
- impressing on them the vital importance of freedom of expression

Appeals To

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
President of The Republic of Uganda
Messages can be sent via the President's website at:

Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe
Vice-President of the Republic of Uganda
E-mail: [email protected]

Professor Apollo Nsibambi
Prime Minister
E-mail: [email protected]

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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