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"Daily Monitor" journalist assaulted in prison, released on bail

UPDATE: Court dismisses case against journalist (HRNJ-Uganda, 28 November 2012)

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Ntungamo, 18 May 2012 - A freelance journalist for the Daily Monitor in Ntungamo district was assaulted by inmates of a crowded local government prison where he had been remanded.

Perez Rumanzi was remanded on Wednesday by Ntungamo Grade One Magistrate Francis Matenga on charges of incitement to violence. He had been remanded to jail until 30 May 2012 after failing to get two sureties. He was however released on Thursday on a non-cash bail when Monitor Publications lawyer Joshua Mariiro secured a production warrant and a bail application was heard. His mother Annie Rumanzi and a station manager for local station Radio Ankole, Eliot Kabangira Maganbe, stood surety for him.

He told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that he was beaten three times by the inmates whose leader kept questioning him as to why he had delayed going to court. “They beat me three times during the time I was in prison. They seemed to be working on someone's orders. Other inmates were not beaten that time. The health conditions in the prison were appalling. The one-room prison had 368 inmates instead of the 87 it was meant to accommodate,” he said.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Rumanzi uttered words that contravene section 51 of the Penal Code Act. The said words were however not on the charge sheet.

He was arrested by the Special Forces Group (SFG) guarding First Lady Janet Museveni on 29 April at Kyamate Cathedral, which is the seat of South Ankole Diocese. The SFG ordered the police to detain him for allegedly interfering with the security of the First Lady, by interfering with their movements. He was released on bond after two days in police custody.

At the time of his arrest, Rumanzi was covering the installation of the members of South Ankole Diocese synod at St. Mathew Cathedral Kyamate in Ntungamo district where Ms. Museveni was the chief guest.

The SFG claimed that Rumanzi was arrested for interfering with the security of the First Lady, but later the police's crime investigation officer said he was to be charged with sedition, while his bond papers had the offence of obstruction. He was finally charged with inciting violence.

He is to report back to court on 19 June for hearing of the case.

“These are trumped-up charges meant to silence any form of critical journalism. Rumanzi was initially cleared by the SFG but later chased away from the news scene for unclear reasons. We call upon the court to expedite the case hearing and give the journalist a fair trial,” said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

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Case history

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