Uganda’s Red Pepper Journalists Charged With Treason For Publishing False Story

Prosecutors have charged eight managers and editors of a daily Ugandan newspaper, Red Pepper, with treason for publishing a false story about President Museveni.

Police raided the Red Pepper offices on Wednesday, detaining staff and confiscating equipment over the publication.

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The newspaper published a story, citing unnamed sources, alleging that Rwanda believed President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda was plotting to oust President Paul Kagame.

Police spokesman Emirian Kayima said the journalists at the newspaper’s Kampala head office were detained after police searched the office and confiscated computers and mobile phones.

Kayima said the eight staff were being held at a detention facility in eastern Uganda and would appear in court when investigations were complete.

He said the story contained “serious statements and insinuations…that have grave implications on national and regional security and stability.”

Besides treason, Kayima also said the journalists were charged with “offensive communication and publication of information prejudicial to national security”.

Rights groups and journalists have complained of increased harassment and intimidation of independent media by security personnel in Uganda.

“We believe that this is economic sabotage aimed at occasioning the media house financial loss since all its production have been stopped,” the Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ-U), a said in a statement issued on Thursday.

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Local media, including Red Pepper, have reported this month on tensions between Uganda and neighboring Rwanda over a range of economic and security disputes.

Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry has dismissed the reports as rumors and insisted relations between the two countries were untroubled.

“There’s no tension between Uganda and Rwanda…we have no problem at all (with Rwanda),”Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman, Margaret Kafeero, told Reuters.

She said Uganda had not received any official complaint from Rwanda regarding any allegations of a plot against Kagame.

Relations between the two countries are often complicated by a shared history which has by turns been a source of mutual suspicion and amity.