27 October 1997


Journalists charged with publishing false information

Incident details

Charles Onyango-Obbo, Andrew Mwenda


legal action
(NDIMA/IFEX) - Two journalists of the independent Ugandan daily, "The Monitor" appeared in a Kampala court on Friday 24 October 1997, charged with publishing false information. Editor Charles Onyango - Obbo and reporter Andrew Mwenda were jointly charged over an article published in the paper's edition of 21 September headlined: "Kabila paid Uganda in Gold, says report." Onyango-Obbo and Mwenda were granted bail of Ushs 2 million ($2,000) cash each, with their sureties executing a bond of Ushs 5 million cash.

The newspaper story quoted the Paris-based "Indian Ocean Newsletter" which said that the new leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Laurent Kabila, paid Uganda in gold for the latter's support of the struggle against ousted former leader Mobutu Sese Seko and that the gold was delivered to Uganda by the head of Uganda's Anti-Smuggling Unit, Lt.-Col. Andrew Lutaaya, from Kinshasa to Kampala.

The prosecution argued that all the issues raised in the article were utterly false. The editor denied the charges before the Kampala Magistrate Flavia Munaba.

"The Monitor" report seemed to have caused unease in State House. President Museveni personally said at a ceremony of Uganda People's Defence Forces soldiers in Jinja on September 22, that he "will punish the paper and the reporter who wrote the story."

The courtroom was packed with journalists, friends and sympathizers. Obbo said that he did not wish to comment as the case is still before the court of law. However, he said, "it comes with the territory for as long as one is a journalist, it has to come, it is expected." He said he has no problem, "as long as we get a fair deal."

The Uganda Journalists Safety Committee, an independent journalists group that fights for the rights of Ugandan journalists, said the cash bail was extremely high for a misdemeanour case. The group's official said the case is a testimony of the fact that there is still no press freedom in Uganda. "This is what we have been fighting against and we have to ensure that there is fair justice in this case," he said.


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