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Journalist charged under abolished "false news" law

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - 7 April 2011 - A court in Buwama has charged Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) journalist Yoweri Musisi under the law on publishing false news, which was nullified by the highest court in the land.

Supreme Court Judge J.N. Mulenga in 2004 declared the law on publishing false news unconstitutional, saying that it was exerting an unacceptable chilling effect on freedom of expression. The law was challenged by Charles Onyango Obbo and Andrew Mujuni Mwenda in 2002.

On 24 March 2011, Musisi, 37, a resident of Nabusanke, Mpigi district, appeared before the Buwama Grade II Magistrate Court and was charged with publishing false news. He entered a plea of not guilty.

On 19 March, Musisi was arrested and detained at Buwama police station. He was released on police bond, which was granted to him following the intervention of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).

The prosecution alleged that on 8 March Musisi published a "false statement likely to cause fear and alarm to the public", which is contrary to section 50 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120.

"It's unfortunate that individuals in justice institutions decided to use illegitimate laws under the guise of bringing justice. I think such an act is intentional to criminalise the work of the media and persecute Musisi in Uganda," said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda condemns in the strongest terms possible the use of unconstitutional laws under the guise of bringing justice. We are petitioning the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to quash the charges against Musisi and set him free unconditionally.

Musisi was released on a non-cash bail and required to report back on 28 April. According to the prosecutor, the police have not concluded investigations into the matter.

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