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Court acquits “Daily Monitor” editors

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, February 7, 2012 - A court in Kampala has thrown out a case of forgery against the Daily Monitor managing editor Daniel Kalinaki and political editor Henry Ochieng on grounds that the prosecution failed to adduce sufficient evidence to sustain the charge.

“Clearly the accused were charged in court for publishing misquotations, and from the foregoing, I therefore uphold the submission of no case to answer and I dismiss the charge of forgery and acquit Accused 1 (Daniel Kalinaki),” ruled Joyce Kavuma.

She contended that the prosecution had not adduced satisfactory evidence to prove that Henry Ochieng had a case to answer. “I dismiss the case against Accused 2 (Henry Ochieng) and I acquit him . . . he cannot be said to have forged Monitor newspapers . . . since he had authority to publish the newspaper . . .” Kavuma ruled, adding that the court should refund Kalinaki and Ocheing's bail fees.

It has been over two years since the two editors were arrested and charged with forgery. They were the first journalists in the history of Ugandan media to be charged with forgery.

The prosecution, led by Samali Wakholi, had alleged that the duo, between July 31 and August 2, 2009 at the Monitor publication offices in Kampala, despite publishing the correct content of a letter on the newspaper website on July 31, subsequently forged the same letter by way of introducing alterations in the Sunday Monitor of August 2, titled, "Museveni's letter on Bunyoro land question". The editors denied the allegations.

In the said letter, President Museveni, in a bid to calm tensions between citizens in Bunyoro, was proposing that elective positions be ring-fenced for natives who are out-numbered by the majority immigrants.

“We welcome the court's ruling. This case was indicative of the state's interest to frustrate the critical media by dragging them to court in such unsustainable cases. The state should realize the need for a free media in a democratic society and desist from criminalizing the work of journalists in Uganda,” said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

Kalinaki fears that the state may bring up new charges against critical and investigative journalists. “Dear colleagues, thank you for the support. But I am worried that since they have lost this battle, they will soon institute others charges to perpetually keep some of us in court,” he said soon after being acquitted.

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