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Three journalists face sedition charges over article on alleged military control of police

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls on Uganda to Drop Sedition Charges Against Three Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Ugandan government to withdraw sedition charges against three journalists working for the Monitor private newspaper, in relation to a story alleging soldiers were secretly trained as policemen in order to have the police force under military control.

"We are very surprised by these charges, which are totally baseless," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "In the story the journalist gave the view of heads of the army and the police. It was a balanced and professional piece of work. Thus, we call on the Ugandan government to drop all the charges against the journalists and to make sure they can continue to work freely."

In the edition published last Sunday, the Monitor ran a story with the title, "Soldiers train to take police jobs." The paper reported that "at least 40 serving soldiers were quietly drafted into the training programme as part of a move to have the force firmly under military control." The story also expressed the comments of Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Robert Rusoke, Army's Chief of Personal and Administration, Colonel Phinehas Katirima and the acting commissioner of police in charge of human resource development and training, Felix Ndyomugenyi. They denied the information or said they were not aware of it.

On Monday the Monitor's Managing Editor of the Weekend Edition, Bernard Tabaire, Sunday Editor Henry Ochieng and author of the article Chris Obore were summoned to the police and released on bail after they were charged with sedition.

The court hearing is due to resume on Monday.

The journalists' lawyer, James Nangwala, quoted by the Monitor in a story on Monday, said that the "police feared the story was likely to create a collision between the police and the army."

Sources say that in Uganda the army is considered loyal to President Yoweri Museveni while the police force was seen as supporting the political opposition.

The IFJ believes the charges are an attempt to intimidate journalists in Uganda and stifle independent reporting.

"Charging journalists with sedition simply for writing an investigative piece that includes the government's point of view is a harsh and disproportionate response," Baglo said. "If the charges are not dropped, it will send a chilling message to media that critical reporting can land them in jail."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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