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Magazine editor and director detained over cartoon of President Museveni

Summit Business Review

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - The chief executive officer and managing editor of the "Summit Business Review" magazine, Mustapha Mugisa, was arrested by security operatives and detained by police in relation to the publication of a cartoon of President Museveni on the magazine's cover.

The "Summit Business Review" Vol. 02, Issue 10, of October 2010, ran a cartoon of the president cutting a cake to mark 48 years of Ugandan independence. The magazine examined Museveni's outstanding challenges under his 24 years in power, including issues relating to roads, health, the economy, security, transparency, development and education. It also paid special attention to the forthcoming general elections between February and March 2011, and what is next for the country. It was summarized in the headline, "Uganda at 48. Museveni at 24. Where next?"

On 11 January, at around 11:30 a.m., 10 security operatives in civilian clothes and armed with "Summit Business Review" copies, stormed the magazine's offices in Kamwokya, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda's capital city, and asked for Mugisa, the editor of the magazine.

"Upon introducing myself as the editor/CEO of the magazine, they told me to record a statement there and then about the Museveni cartoon, which I did for about 40 minutes, after which they demanded that I follow them to the Central Police Station (CPS) in Kampala to face their boss," Mugisa told the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).

When he reached the CPS, Mugisa was detained in a police cell without being charged with an offence and his laptop was confiscated. The co-director of the magazine, Dr. Samuel Ssejjaaka, was subsequently arrested when he went to the CPS to rescue his colleague. The two men were detained for over four hours before being released on a police bond, which did not mention any charges against them.

Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that the duo's file has been forwarded to the directorate of the Criminal Investigation Department based at Kibuli, and they were required to appear before the political offences desk on 13 January.

Art. 29(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda states that: "Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and the media"

HRNJ-Uganda believes that cartoons constitute a form of expression that is acceptable in any democratic state and recognized by international treaties to which Uganda is a party, as well as the Ugandan constitution, therefore no one should be punished for expressing him or herself in this manner.

"It is a violation of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and the media for security personnel to detain people at their own discretion. This constitutes persecution that should not go unpunished. The police must immediately explain their actions," HRNJ-Uganda board chairperson Robert Ssempala said.

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