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Uganda: Sentenced CBS radio journalist dies in Masaka hospital

This statement was originally published on on 2 January 2015.

Ronald Ssembuusi, a journalist formally working with the Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) radio, has passed on.

He died at dawn on 2 January 2015 at Masaka Referral hospital, where he had been admitted due to his deteriorating health.

In October 2014, the Magistrates Court at Kalangala convicted and sentenced Ssembuusi to a fine of one million shillings (USD 400) or a one year jail term for a story he reported on CBS radio on 17 November 2011 alleging that the former Kalangala LC 5 chairman, Daniel Kikola, was being investigated in connection with the disappearance of solar panels donated to the Kalangala district by the African Development Bank to pump clean water in the area.

At the time of his death, Ssembuusi had appealed against his criminal defamation conviction and sentence at the High Court in Masaka. Through his lawyers, Catherine Anite and Nicholas Opio, Ssembuusi had also filed a Reference in the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, challenging the enforcement of criminal defamation laws, which place unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression and access to information in Uganda.

His death casts a very dark cloud over the journalism fraternity in Uganda, most especially within the human rights defenders spectrum in the country.

“We believe that Ssembuusi stood for a very good cause, he was a very brave journalist and very passionate about his profession so much that he remained focused, ambitious and true to his work as a journalist despite his ailing health. We will forever celebrate Ssembuusi's service to the media and keep his aspiration burning. May Ssembuusi's soul rest eternally in peace,” said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

Ssembuusi's body will be laid to rest on 3 January 2015, at his ancestral place at Lwanume in Kalungu district at 2:00pm local time.

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