In what could be a precedent in Uganda, a court has ordered journalists to reveal a news source.
A magistrate’s court in Kampala on Thursday, May 16, ordered three Daily Monitor journalists under investigation for publishing an explosive letter written by a senior military officer regarding the question of presidential succession to hand over the letter and reveal its source to the police.
“It is ordered that Simon Freeman the Executive Editor, Don Wanyama the managing editor, Wanambwa Richard a Reporter and Risdel Kasasira a Reporter; all employees of The Daily Monitor to avail the original letter titled “PROPOSED INVESTIGATIONS” and its source published on 7th May 2013 on page 4 of The Daily Monitor newspapers to D/ASP Mbonimpa Emmanuel…”
The newspaper says it will challenge the order on May 17.
The order was issued after Mr Mbonimpa filed a motion arguing that “the original content and the source of the story are critical since the letter was shown as the basis of the publication” and that the journalists “were requested to avail the original letter to the investigators but they have to date decline to do so”.
Published on May 7, the letter by Gen. David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza claims that an assassination plot is afoot targeting senior government and military officials opposed to an alleged plan to have the president’s son succeed him in State House.
In his letter, Gen. Sejusa, the co-ordinator of intelligence agencies, claims those to be framed and eliminated for their perceived opposition to the ‘Muhoozi Project’ are Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima and the general himself.
Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the commander of the elite Special Forces Command and a graduate of several of the world’s equally elite military colleges, is President Yoweri Museveni’s son.
After several hours of questioning over the last three days, the journalists refused to reveal the source of the letter or hand it over prompting the police to seek a court order.
“That it is in the interest of justice and national security that the respondents are compelled to avail me with the letter and also reveal the source,” Mr Mbonimpa argued in his affidavit.
Mr Wanyama said, however, that the Monitor will challenge the court order because it was issued ex parte – without representation of the newspaper.
The Press and Journalist Act says a journalist can only reveal a source by court order.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday night, security at the Monitor head offices in Kampala arrested one of four men allegedly planning on tailing one of the reporters as he left office. The others fled as the paper’s security swung into action.
Mr Wanambwa said that after a brief scuffle outside the newspaper’s premises, security found the man’s ID, which reported him as Orach Denis, an employee of the Internal Security Organisation.
“He said they were on a mission to trail me and Don,” Mr Wanambwa said.
Sources said when the paper contacted ISO, the security agency denied the man’s existence. He was later taken to nearby Kisugu Police Post.