UGANDA

August 15, 2005 12:00 PM ET

AUGUST 12-15, 2005
Updated: December 1, 2005

Andrew Mwenda, Monitor Publications

IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

An independent radio and print journalist was arrested on August 12 in connection with a talk show on KFM radio focusing on the July helicopter crash that killed southern Sudanese leader John Garang. Andrew Mwenda, a journalist with Monitor Publications, was charged with sedition on August 15.

Mwenda, a print and radio journalist for the independent Monitor Publications, pleaded not guilty and was released on bail after three days in detention. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to five years, according to Monitor Publications lawyer James Nangwala. Mwenda was accused of seeking to "bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection" against President Yoweri Museveni, according to The Associated Press.

The charge stemmed from his broadcast remarks on August 10 suggesting that government incompetence led to the July 30 crash of the Ugandan presidential helicopter. Ugandan authorities shut down the Monitor-owned KFM on August 11, citing the talk show.

The show featured a discussion of the helicopter crash and the threats by President Yoweri Museveni to shut any news outlet that "plays around with regional security." The helicopter, which belonged to the Ugandan government, crashed on July 30 as it was transporting Garang back to Sudan from a meeting with Museveni.

Monitor Publications Managing Director Conrad Nkutu described the detention as "an excessive reaction from the government." He also said that the group will "use all legal means to defend our situation."

In a speech on August 10, Museveni accused local media and Mwenda of threatening regional security by reporting on Garang's Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, the Ugandan army, and other regional issues. Mwenda is also political editor at The Monitor, an independent daily owned by Monitor Publications, and his print reports have drawn the president's ire. Two weeks before, according to a CPJ source, Mwenda wrote articles on the strained relationship between Uganda and Rwanda.

On November 1, the government brought 13 new charges of sedition and "promoting sectarianism" against Mwenda in connection with the August broadcast. The journalist pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to The Monitor.

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