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Five journalists and newspaper editor charged with defamation; two reporters beaten while covering protest

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

IFJ Calls on Ugandan Authorities to End Harassment of Newspaper Staff

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Ugandan authorities to put an end to the harassment of journalists in the country after five journalists and editors of the privately-owned Daily Monitor newspaper were charged with defamation after they published stories alleging the government's Inspector General is involved in a salary scam.

"These journalists should not be charged with defamation simply for investigating allegations of government impropriety," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "We call on the Ugandan authorities to put an end to this attempt to intimidate journalists doing critical reporting. The Inspector General should use the right of response to clear herself of these allegations instead of launching a court case as a means to silence these reports."

Two managing editors at the Daily Monitor, Joachim Buwembo and Bernard Tabaire, were charged on January 28 with defaming the Inspector General of Government, Justice Faith Mwondha. They were charged after their colleagues, News Editor Robert Mukasa, Chief Parliament Reporter Emmanuel Gyezaho and Special Projects Writer Angelo Izama, were already named in the suit.

In a column published on the paper's website Tuesday, Gyezaho said that the charges stem from two reports published in the newspaper in August 2007 accusing Justice Mwondha of claiming a judge's salary, which was higher than the one she received as the inspector general.

All of the charged members of the Daily Monitor's staff have been released on bail pending their trial.

Separately the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) is calling for an investigation into an attack on journalists Rogers Muyanja from Bukedde newspaper and Herbert Ssempogo from New Vision. The two reporters were beaten in Kampala by police on January 19 when they covered an unauthorised demonstration led by opposition Members of Parliament.

The IFJ condemned the attack and backed EAJA's calls for an investigation.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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