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Court dismisses case against radio journalist

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Mpigi, 18 May 2011 - A court in Mpigi district has dismissed a case of publishing false news against Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) FM journalist Yoweri Musisi.

Musisi, 37, a resident of Nabusanke, Nkozi Sub county, in Mpigi district, was charged with publishing false news on 24 March 2011 by the Buwama Grade II Magistrate Court. The charge came after Musisi was arrested and detained at Buwama police station for more than 24 hours.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), along with partners Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), hired a lawyer from Mukiibi, Kawooya, Onyango and Company advocates to challenge the "publishing false news" charge. In 2004, Supreme Court Judge J.N. Mulenga declared the law on publishing false news unconstitutional, saying it exerted an unacceptable chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Appearing before Buwama Grade II Magistrate Noah Muwonge, the lawyer representing Musisi, Francis Onyango, argued that at the time the journalist was charged, there was no offence called "publishing false news" in Ugandan law books. Onyango added that the constitutional provision which calls for any criminal offence to be defined and punishment prescribed in Ugandan law books was abused by the state.

It is on this basis that magistrate Muwonge dismissed the case, saying that all subordinate courts of the highest court in the land must be bound by the Supreme Court's decisions.

"I am happy and a free man now, otherwise I was afraid that I would be taken back to prison at any time. I thank HRNJ-Uganda and MLDI for their legal support and a job well done," said a jubilant Musisi.

HRNJ-Uganda welcomes the court decision and believes that such decisions will widen the space within which journalists in Uganda can operate.

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