Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns raids by military intelligence personnel on the headquarters of the privately-owned fortnightly The Independent and the home of its publisher in Kampala on the 26 April, and the arrests of the publisher and two of his journalists for possession of “seditious materials.”
“There is no reason why the Ugandan authorities should target an independent newspaper with such brutality,” the press freedom organisation said. “Sedition charges should be a thing of the past in a modern country,” the organisation added, calling for the charges to be dropped.
The newspaper’s publisher, Andrew Mwenda, was surrounded by five vehicles from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) as he was driving away from his home in the Kampala neighbourhood of Kololo in the morning of 26 April. Led by Charles Kataratambi, the head of the media and political department of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), the officials ordered him to get out of his car, handcuffed him and escorted back to his home where a search was carried out.
At the same time, a second group of military officers swooped on the headquarters of The Independent. Preventing the staff from leaving, they searched the premises for “seditious material,” confiscating computers, CD-ROMs, video cassettes and files.
After Kataratambi arrived at the newspaper with Mwenda, consulting editor Odobo Bichachi and journalist John Njoroge were also arrested and all three were taken to CID headquarters. They were released on bail a few hours later.
A photographer working for the privately-owned Sunday Monitor newspaper, Joseph Kiggundu, was stopped as he tried to enter the headquarters of The Independent with the aim of taking photos of the ongoing raid. CMI agents led him outside, handcuffed him and hit him.
Mwenda said the “seditious material” sought by the CMI consisted of transcripts and recordings of interviews with people who had been tortured while held at government detentions centres.
The Independent was launched just a few months ago by Mwenda, a popular journalist who has been arrested and prosecuted in the past.