Kampala, 27th/May/2021; Court at Buganda Road has this afternoon 27th May 2021 remanded two journalists to wit Pidson Kareire and Darious Magara of the Drone Media and the East African Watch respectively to Kitalya Prison on charges of criminal libel contrary to section 179 of the Penal Code Act.
The journalists who were appearing before Buganda Road Grade 1 Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu denied the charges. They were represented by Counsel Doreen Amumpaire contracted by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).
Efforts to apply for bail by Counsel Amumpeire proved futile as the magistrate adjourned the case to 17th June 2021 for bail application and hearing of the case. This was after the State Attorney, Jacky Akao told the court that investigations into the matter were concluded and the prosecution is ready to proceed with hearing the case.
The prosecution alleges that the duo and others at large between October and November 2020 in Kampala and thereabout by means of online platforms www.dronemedia.ug and www.eastafricanwatch.net published defamatory matters concerning Dott services Ltd and its inability to do good work on the Uganda-Congo road. The said stories were sourced from a debate in Parliament regarding Dott Services.
The law on criminal defamation was challenged by HRNJ-Uganda through the late Ronald Ssembuusi at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha Tanzania arguing that the continued use by the Uganda government of section 179 of the Penal Code Act of Uganda which provides for the offence of criminal defamation is a violation of the fundamental and operating principles of the East African Community Treaty. Unfortunately, on 23rd November 2020 court presided over by Monica Mugenyi, Audace Ngiye and Charles Nyachae dismissed the matter on grounds that some of the issues raised in the case were time-barred and improperly before the court.
“HRNJ-Uganda is disappointed by this development. Journalists should not be criminalized for reporting stories of public interest, and yet they were openly discussed in Parliament. We implore the magistrate to handle the matter expeditiously so that the journalists get justice.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director Robert Ssempala.