Journalists facing Defamation ask Court to dismiss charge sheet

Kampala, 23rd /October/2015; Four Ugandan journalists have asked Court at Buganda Road to strike out a charge sheet in which they were allegedly joined improperly as parties to a criminal defamation case.

This was in a case in which the prosecution, led by Peter Mugisha, alleges that Ronald Nahabwe and Benon Tugumisirize of the Red Pepper publication and Madinah Nalwanga and Patrick Tumwesige of the government owned Vision Group published defamatory statements against Kampala city businessmen Drake Lubega and Ephraim Ntaganda when they reported that the duo was trailing one Ssegawa Tamale Juma to kill him over land ownership disputes. The said news stories were published on 18th May and 4th June 2015 respectively.

In a preliminary objection, through their defence lawyers; Wameli Anthony and Ochaya Tom, the journalists told Court that they were wrongly joined as parties in the same charge sheet since they work with different media houses, the content of the stories was different as well as the dates of publication.

Wameli also submitted that the case involving the Red Pepper journalists does not fall within the territorial jurisdiction of Buganda Road Court which is situated in Kampala and yet Red Pepper Publication is situated in Namanve, Mukono District which is under a different jurisdiction.

Ochaya told court that the journalists were entitled to a fair trial and therefore were right to object to what he described as “an irredeemably defective charge sheet” since the prosecution had failed to amend it. ”

The presiding Magistrate Sarah Kataike Mirembe adjourned the case to 1st December 2015 to give her ruling.

The journalists were reportedly joined in the case when they declined to testify against their said news source, who the duo was accusing of defamation when he claimed that he was being tailed to be killed.

“We hope that the court will administer justice in this case. Its wrong for journalists to testify against their sources as this has the potential to alienate the media from its news sources. We hope that the journalists will be fairly heard.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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