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Journalist handed jail term over "criminal trespass" at Ugandan parliament

This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on 13 December 2014.

A City Hall Court in Kampala has sentenced a freelance journalist, William Ntege (aka Buganda Kyumakyayesu) to two months in prison on charges of criminal trespass and being a common nuisance at the parliament of Uganda. Ntege had gone to parliament to petition the speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, over police brutality on journalists and other Ugandans.

A Senior Grade one magistrate, Elias Kakooza, convicted Ntege to jail over criminal trespass, and cautioned him on the second count of common nuisance.

Prosecution led by State Attorney Miriam Njuki told court that on 9 December 2014, Ntege did an act not authorized by law when he lawfully entered into the parliamentary building but remained there with an intention to demonstrate and disrupt business within parliament. Police confiscated his audio and visual evidence of police brutality.

She told court that Ntege also chained and padlocked himself to a bar at the fly-over connecting the South wing to Northern wing of the parliament
building, and that efforts to ask him to leave failed until the officers sought the services of a technician to cut the chain, leading to his arrest and prosecution.

Ntege is the second journalist to be convicted and sentenced to prison this year, after Ronald Ssembuusi, a correspondent with CBS radio was convicted and sentenced to either one year in prison or pay a one million Shillings fine (USD $400) over criminal defamation. Ssembuusi appealed his conviction and sentence at the High Court in Masaka.

Ntege has been a victim of police brutality while on duty, his video cameras destroyed and confiscated on most of the occasions, yet the perpetrators were never acted upon. He told HRNJ-Uganda at the KCCA Hall Court that he would appeal his conviction and sentence, saying he was not fairly tried as he was not directly asked to plead to the charges, which he denies to have committed.

"HRNJ-Uganda is dismayed with the hasty way in which Ntege was tried and convicted. We would therefore support him to challenge his conviction and sentence. The police should desist from bringing trumped-up charges against journalists and Ugandans who take to peaceful demonstration which is provided for under the Constitution of Uganda," said Robert Ssempala, the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator.

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