Ugandan police have shut down two newspapers after they reported on a letter written by the country's coordinator of intelligence services to the head of the counter intelligence agency asking for an investigation into a plan to groom the eldest son of President Yoweri Museveni to succeed the 27-year leader.
The Red Pepper and the Daily Monitor were shuttered on 20 May, 2013 and armed police agents placed outside the buildings. The closure of the Daily Monitor also affected two radio stations, 90.4 Dembe FM and 93.3 KFM, which are located in the same building in the Namuwonga suburb of Uganda's capital city of Kampala.
The police claim that the closure of these media houses was to search for the letter from General David Sejusa a.k.a Tinyefunza. The letter refers to the plan, known as the Muhoozi Project, to have Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba to take over for his father and calls for an investigation into allegations that opponents of the plan are targeted for assassination.
General David Sejusa is currently in United Kingdom. He has written to Speaker of Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, asking for three months’ leave from Parliament, where he is army representative, to complete his unfinished business in London.
Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba has also accused the publications of scanning government officials’ signatures to forge documents.
So for these reasons the government has claimed, police have had to search the entire premises including the production plants. The computer servers, radio transmitters, and printing machines were all turned off on the arrival of police.
Both publications continue to occupied by police. A court hearing has been set for 30 May in which the Daily Monitor will argue that the order for them to produce the original letter should be cancelled.
Many Ugandans consider the siege as abuse of the law and misuse of Uganda's police force. Rumors also started circulating on social media sites that the government was planning on closing down Facebook and Twitter in Uganda, but the Minister of Information Mary Karoro Okurut said these were false.
Following the shutdown, Ugandans have taken to social media sites to comment on the action by the government, some supporting the move while others saying the government is interfering with press freedom and freedom of speech.
The Daily Monitor (@DailyMonitor) warned:
Red Pepper (@RedPepper) wrote:
Commenting on a story appearing on the Daily Monitor website, netizen Tommy wanted someone to tell the president that Ugandans are tired of his regime:
Will anyone patriotic remind M7 [President Yoweri Museveni] that Ugadans [sic] are fed up?
Another reader, Alex Kahanga, wrote:
Press Freedom in Uganda, like all other spheres of life have gone to the dogs. Lets just lay, and watch the rot.
Godfrey Wanzusi wondered how a letter can cause the government to act in such a manner:
That's the nakedness of M7 [President Yoweri Museveni] and his boys in defence, security organs and government. They're doing more harm than good to M7 by harassing the press before the international image. Just a letter has caused this commotion, this brings people to conclude that the content contained in the letter was true and it has unsettled M7 and his plotters, thus why? he has remained quiet to dispute the content of the letter.
disqus_S7K0rqnCHo supported the police siege:
Really, I dont think there is any cause for alarm. Police anywhere in the world are free to check whatever is suspected of any criminal issues. I think it is a normal process.
kiapi@40KFreddie noted that the siege is in violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Commonwealth Singapore Declaration:
The gov't is using the State security agencies to gang the press especially those that they deem to be lenient to the opposition all because of a letter written by one of their own is a step back to the dark days of the 1980's of which they people in leadership fought against but now are doing the same, it call us all to condemn such acts and the days of such are long gone. the Monitor publication just like others are just a message and not the author, let them wait for the author and them ask him about the letter. This in violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Commonwealth Singapore Declaration of Principles of which the GoU is a signatory too.
Kule J. Warren observed that closing down the media houses is pushing the public to believe that the letter is genuine:
Why is the regime police acting this way? We are now forced to believe that Muhoozi Project is real. Besieging Monitor will not solve the problem. Focus on keeping law and order and not being agents of lawlessness. Monitor, you will live up to the test. You have weathered more of these
Olum S. warned that the siege is a sign of what is to come. He also rephrased the Ugandan Motto, “For God And My Country,” to “For God And Our Stomach”:
And? What is so surprising about that? This is only but a taste of what's to come. Expect much more of the same the longer these thugs hold on to power. With a lot more brutality added in as well, just in case any of you thought you were exempt from all that. For God and Our Stomach
Gaetano Kagwa (@gaetanokagwa), former Big Brother Africa housemate and media personality, joked:
Kiyonga (@kinyongaismael) asked:
Arinaitwe Rugyendo (@RugyendoQuotes), editor at Red Pepper, joked about the situation:
@RugyendoQuotes: The cops who attacked Daily Monitor were looking @kalinaki [Kalinaki is a famous political writer in Uganda and former chief editor at the Daily Monitor]. those who went to Red Pepper were looking for The Hyena [Hyena is a daily sex feature appearing on Red Pepper newspaper]. #OccupyRedPepper
Red Pepper journalist Ambrose (@since_1986) wrote on the initial day of the police raid:
GudderGudder (@zanckydenis) warned President Museveni:
Power at the Daily Monitor premises went off during the siege on May 20, 2013. National Power Supplier UMEME made a statement that they were doing maintenance work, yet this was not true as Jennifer Okech (@ajokech), an editor at Monitor Publications, tweeted: