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Ugandan media council summons journalist, media houses over news article

The Media Council of Uganda has summoned two media houses and a journalist over a news story about a cabinet minister's alleged plot to grab a deceased person's property.

The Council summoned Uganda Radio Network (URN) and its employee, Tom Malaba, who is accused of authoring the controversial story, as well as Capital FM, a private radio station which reportedly broadcast the story.

"If no appearance is made on your behalf, yourself, your pleader or by someone by law authorized to act for you, a decision will be made by the Council in your absence in accordance with the law," wrote the Council's Secretary, Pius Mwinganisa, in a summons dated 19th March 2014.

The Minister of State for Tourism, Agnes Akiror Egunyu, petitioned the Council alleging defamation and malice by the said parties when they wrote and carried a story titled "Tourism Minister Accused Of Grabbing Deceased Sister's Property". She was "deliberately trying to grab the deceased's property away from any member of their family," the article quotes Asha Egunyu Komuhendo, a daughter of the deceased Lucy Fiona Egunyu Asemo, who was also the Senior Presidential Legal Advisor.

Akiror asked the Council to charge Malaba with professional misconduct, suspend his practicing certificate for six months, and have all the parties apologize to her, in addition to paying her appropriate compensation.

URN's Executive Director, Sam Guma described the move by the minister as political; "She is a politician using extra-judicial muscle to wrestle legal matters," he told HRNJ-Uganda, adding that they are ready to attend the hearing on April 22nd, 2014.

"All documents were given to our company lawyers who are following the matter," Capital FM's Programs Director, George Manyali, told HRNJ-Uganda.

"The Media Council should guard against being used by politicians to settle political scores, thereby undermining the freedoms of expression and information," warned HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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