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Eight Uganda tabloid staff members charged with treason

November 23, 2017

Eight editors and directors of one of Uganda’s most popular tabloid newspaper groups have been charged with “treason” over an article implicating President Yoweri Museveni in a plot to overthrow his Rwandan counterpart, a defence lawyer said Thursday.

The eight men were arrested Tuesday during a police raid on the offices of the privately owned English-language Red Pepper and its local-language sister publications.

On Wednesday the treason charge, which carries a possible seven-year jail term, was lodged against them.

The controversial article, published Monday, said Museveni was plotting to overthrow his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.

“The charges include treason, offensive communication and disturbing the peace of the president,” Dickens Byamukama, one of the detained journalists’ lawyers, told AFP. “All the staff denied the charges,” he added.

The suspects are being held at the Nalufenya prison outside the capital Kampala.

Among those being held is Red Pepper’s CEO Richard Tusiime as well as chief editors and the financial director of the group.

Police spokesman Emilian Kayima confirmed the charges, without giving details; on Wednesday he had said the article was false and a threat to regional security.

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders condemned the “absolutely disproportionate” response and called for the journalists to be immediately released.

On Thursday, for the second day running, Pepper Publications tabloids were absent from newsstands.

Byamukama said the newspaper’s offices had been sealed up and phones, laptops and other equipment confiscated.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.