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Newspaper offices raided, guard killed

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Wakiso, 24 November 2011 - Unidentified assailants have raided the "Eddoboozi" newspaper's headquarters, vanishing with property worth millions of Ugandan shillings and killing security guard Fred Mabonga. The deceased was working for KPI, a private security company in Kampala.

"Eddoboozi", a bi-weekly Luganda-language newspaper based in Kyengera, in the Nsangi sub-country of Wakiso district, was raided early in the morning of 24 November 2011. The assailants disappeared with vital documents and a large number of computers.

"Eddoboozi", a pro-Buganda newspaper, was established in 2009 in the wake of the banning of open air radio programmes (called Ebimeeza) and the closure of five private radio stations, namely the Central Broadcasting Service (88.8 FM and 89.2 FM), Radio Ssuubi, Radio Sapientia and Radio Two, commonly referred to as "Akaboozi". Since hitting the streets on 18 December 2009, the paper has written extensively on issues of corruption, politics and human rights abuses, and concerns relating to the Buganda Kingdom, among others.

The Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learned that this was the second attack on the paper within a period of two months. In the first attack a security guard was chloroformed and injured by the assailants, but nothing was taken.

This is the third newspaper to be raided in a period of two years. Previously, the Namanve-based "Red Pepper" publication's printer was set on fire, while the "Ggwanga" newspaper's premises were raided by security operatives, with four staff members arrested. After the raid "Ggwanga" suspended its operations.

Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that the assailants used a window to enter the "Eddoboozi" newspaper's premises and went straight to the administrator's office, where keys to all the offices are normally kept.

The paper's editor, Eddie Mukwaba Katende, told HRNJ-Uganda that he learned about the attack from one of his staff members, who was the first person to arrive at the office that morning.

"I rushed over after getting the shocking news and, upon reaching the office, I found the body of the guard lying in a pool of blood. The attackers got the keys from the administrator's office and opened all the offices. They took all the computers, over 80 in total, which had stories prepared for the issue that was to come out on 25 November 2011. It's a big loss to the company," said Mukwaba. He added that the stories they had prepared were no different from those the paper had published previously. However, the editor said he could not rule out the fact that the paper may have been targeted because of its reports.

The police in Kyengera have begun investigating the incident, but no arrests have been made thus far.

"We condemn this attack on the "Eddoboozi" newspaper and note that in past cases of attacks on media houses investigative reports have never been made public, including those relating to the attacks on 'Red Pepper' and the 'Independent' magazine in 2008. There has been silence and we do not know in whose interest this is. With these new developments in attacks on media houses we cannot rule out the involvement of the government because the findings have been concealed," said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-Uganda calls for a quick and transparent investigation into the raid on "Eddoboozi" and for the release of investigative reports on the previous attacks.

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