Kampala, 1st /December/2015; Hearing of a case in which four journalists were charged with criminal defamation commenced today 1st December 2015 at Chief Magistrate Court at Buganda Road with one of the complainants Ephraim Ntaganda testifying.
City tycoon, Ephraim Ntaganda, told court presided over by the Chief Magistrate, Nabakooza Flavia Kalungi, that on 18th May 2015, he returned home at about 7pm only to be asked by his 11 year old son about his intention to kill ‘some people’. His wife, Wantegge Monica Ntaganda, also asked him the same question. He later learnt that the duo had read an article reported by Ronald Nahabwe in Hello Magazine a sister paper to Red Pepper Publications.
Ntaganda told court that his fellow businessmen from the Kwagalana group asked him about his intention to kill a one Juma Segawa over a land dispute.
He further told court that he learnt of a similar story published by Red Pepper Publications and reported by Benon Tugumisirize on 31st May 2015 in which they said that he had hired a commercial cyclist to trail Ssegawa Tamale Juma and kill him. He learnt about the story through his fellow business men of the kwagalana group who wanted to take disciplinary action against him over the said story.
Defence counsel, Thomas Ochaya, objected to Ntaganda’s testimony against Madina Nalwanga and Patrick Tumwesigye of Bukedde Newspaper, a Luganda publication which prosecution had not translated into English the official language of court. He said he could not cross examine the witness over an article he cannot read. Court ordered the prosecution to produce a translated article before the next hearing.
Earlier before the hearing, the magistrate over ruled an objection raised by defence lawyers that the prosecution wrongly charged the accused persons together whereas the alleged charges against them were committed on different dates, media houses, languages and districts. She ruled in favor of the prosecution that the same offence was committed by the same accused persons in the same period and therefore no misjoinder of parties. On the issue of jurisdiction, she contended that it does not matter where the parties are tried as long as the papers were read through out the country.
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 Bukedde News Paper 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, 31st May and 4th June 2015 respectively.
The case was adjourned to 5th January 2016 for further hearing.
“We pray for expeditious trial of the case such that the journalists are heard. We hope that justice will be inspired at the end of the trial.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala