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Court blocks media from publicising information about investigation into bomb blasts

(HRNJ/IFEX) - Kampala, 20 August 2010 - Any journalist in Uganda who writes about a police investigation into bomb blasts that took place on 11 July 2010 now risks being charged with terrorism, according to a court order.

In the order released on 16 August by the Nakawa chief magistrate's court, an injunction was issued against all print and broadcast media outlets operating in Uganda, prohibiting them from publicising information about a police investigation relating to the 11 July terrorism case pending before the same court.

The 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act states that any person who establishes, runs or supports any terrorism-promoting institutions or who publishes or disseminates news or materials that promote terrorism could, upon conviction, face the death penalty.

The injunction comes at a time when a power struggle exists between the police and the army over who should conduct the investigation. The army recently paraded terrorism suspects before the media while the head of police, General Kale Kayihura, held a press conference at the same time at the government's media centre.

Sources say that in the application lodged before the court on 16 August, police officials argued that media reports about the ongoing investigation into the 11 July bomb blasts are facilitating the getaway of suspects who have not yet been apprehended.

The Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is disappointed over the way in which the government has criminalised the work of the media and denied the public's right to access information about the outcome of the investigation. "Uganda has had a number of commissions of inquiry, none of which have been made public. The government should be accountable to the people and the media should be allowed to operate freely," HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala said.

Since the Anti-Terrorism Act came into force, no journalists have been charged with terrorism although Mega FM journalist Patrick Otim is in remand at the Luzira prison on charges of treason.

HRNJ-Uganda calls on the government to withdraw the injunction in the interest of promoting open and accountable governance.

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