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Investigative journalist, arrested, charged with "promoting sectarianism" and "incitement to violence"

(CJFE/IFEX) - The following is a 29 October 2008 CJFE letter to High Commissioner George Marino Abola:

His Excellency George Marino Abola
High Commissioner of the Republic of Uganda to Canada
231 Cobourg St.
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 8J2

Dear High Commissioner,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is extremely concerned by the systematic harassment of Ugandan journalist Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, who has been charged for the second time in two years with "promoting sectarianism" and "incitement to violence".

Nganda, an investigative journalist and political editor with The Weekly Observer, has been arrested and interrogated at least three times this month by detectives with Kampala's Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Nganda has been accused by the CID of mobilizing Baganda, the biggest ethnic group critical of the current government. The CID also claims that Nganda has criticized President Yoweri Museveni in different talk shows for the high rates of human rights violations during his rule. The last time Nganda was questioned he was ordered to report back on November 6, 2008. If convicted, Nganda could face a five-year jail sentence for promoting sectarianism and up to three years in prison for incitement to violence.

In June 2006, Nganda was also accused of the same charges for writing an article that criticized government persecution of opposition leader Kizza Besigye. The trial was halted as the offence is being challenged in the Constitutional Court of Uganda, but Nganda was asked to keep reporting to court frequently.

CJFE asks you to convey our concerns to your government. We call for the charges against journalist Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda to be dropped and for the harassment of him to end. Furthermore we call on your government to ensure that the right to free expression is protected and that journalists are able to report in Uganda without fear of reprisal.

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Arnold Amber, President

CC: Ross Hynes, Canada's High Commissioner of Uganda
Mr. Leonard Edwards, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

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