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Ugandan police defy court order, occupy publication premises

On 23 May 2013, Ugandan security operatives defied a court order demanding them to vacate the premises of Monitor publications, as they arrested five civil society members who were protesting the defiance.

The road to Monitor publications has been blocked and no one – including pedestrians – is allowed to use it, as more security personnel were deployed to guard the premises.

The siege of the Monitor and Red Pepper publications and the deactivation of Ddembe and KFM located (within the Monitor premises) was operationalized after the police obtained two search warrants from the Nakawa Magistrates Court and a letter from the Uganda Communications Commission, ordering the stations to cease operations pending the police search.

The Nakawa Grade One Magistrate, Rosemary Bareebe, in issuing the Wednesday evening's vacation order, wrote that “in the process of execution of the said warrant, the mandate given by the warrant was overstepped.”

The Uganda Police said on their social media account that, “We have not received the court order that [the] Monitor claims to have. All court orders are supposed to be served to our head of legal department, or his assistant. The two officers have been in Parliament discussing amendments on the Public Order Management Bill, as directed by the deputy speaker of Parliament, yesterday. The ongoing search by the police of premises of the Daily Monitor publications and the Red Pepper publications will continue. We wish to state that in conducting this search, indeed, in carrying out this investigation, the police have acted professionally, and within the law.”

“The arbitrary arrest of civil society members shows the high-handedness and intolerance of the police to the rule of law and the utter disregard of human rights. The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda promotes, protects and defends freedom of expression, media rights, [the] right to access information and the freedom to assemble and peacefully demonstrate. Refusing to honor the court order and arresting persons standing by their media friends is an acceptable and must be denounced by all Ugandans”, said Ssebaggala Wokulira Geoffrey, the national coordinator for HRNJ-Uganda.

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