EXCLUSIVE: Monitor Journalists Face 14 Years In Jail

help geneva; color: #222222;”>Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek told Parliament on Wednesday that security was probing “possible violations of the law that may have been committed, page especially, discount in respect of the Official Secrets Act, and the UPDF Act.”

“On Daily Monitor publications, the interest of the Police, and other sister agencies is to get the letter published by the Daily Monitor, and, given its security classification, investigate how the Daily Monitor got it, and possible violations of the law that may have been committed, especially, in respect of the Official Secrets Act, and the UPDF Act,” said Onek.

The situation is so grim especially if security find the Sejusa’s letter at Monitor’s premises.

According to the Official Secrets Act, where no specific penalty is provided, any person who commits an offence under this Act “shall be deemed to be guilty of an indictable offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”


However, the Act reads, “that person may, at the election of the Director of Public Prosecutions, be prosecuted before a magistrate under Part XIV of the Magistrates Courts Act, and, if so prosecuted, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.”

The Official Secrets Act also provides that one can be held liable if one “retains for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of Uganda any official document, whether or not completed or issued for use, when he or she has no right to retain it, or when it is contrary to his or her duty to retain it, or fails to comply with any directions issued by any Government department or any person authorised by such department with regard to the return or disposal of the official document.”

According to the provision, “It shall not be necessary, on a prosecution under this section, to show that the accused person was guilty of any particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of Uganda and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him or her, the accused person may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, or his or her conduct, or his or her known character as proved, it appears that his or her purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of Uganda.”

Legal experts tell Chimpreports that State would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Daily Monitor indeed had intentions to jeopardize the safety of Ugandans.

The journalists at the Independent newspaper have since explained they had no ulterior motives in publishing Gen Sejusa’s letter.

The Act further provides that “Any person who, on being required to produce any such original or transcript or paper as specified in subsection (1), refuses or neglects to do so commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction for each offence to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding two hundred pounds or to both.”

The siege at the Monitor and Red Pepper publications has attracted international condemnation, with Human Rights Watch and United States embassy in Kampala calling for an end of media harassment.

Activists said such state activities lead to self-censorship and deny citizens access to information critical of government policies which undermines a country’s democratic credentials.


Onek told a chaotic Parliament that “Logically, at the beginning of the investigation, the interest of the Police was to establish the authenticity of the letter published by the Daily Monitor.”

He added: “Police inquired from the Director General, ISO who stated that he never received the letter.

The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) as well as the Director General, External Security organization (ESO), to whom the letter was supposed to have been copied to, also, did not receive their copies.”

The Minister said, “evidently, at that stage, it was only the Daily Monitor, who was in possession of the letter and accordingly, the CID then summoned the Managing Editor of Daily Monitor publications, and the journalist who authored the story in which the letter was published, to assist in getting the letter as well as disclose the source of the letter.”

Onek said Monitor “refused to cooperate” with the CID.

Subsequently, Onek explained, the CID applied, and got a court order under sec.38 of the Press and Journalist Act, to compel them to cooperate.

“In addition, the CID got information that the Daily Monitor publications, was in possession of other documents in relation to the contents of the letter, which they intended to publish. They, then, in addition, sought and got, from court, a search warrant to search the premises of the Daily Monitor publications. The search warrant was served and, duly acknowledged by the management of the Daily Monitor,” added Onek.

He said the search began on Monday, May 20, and, is, still ongoing.

“I wish to clarify that Daily Monitor publications, KFM, and Dembe FM have not been closed. They have been asked to halt operations to facilitate the search and investigations on their premises. Indeed, from the moment the search began, the premises were declared a scene of crime under the custody of the Police. Consequently, Monitor Publications, KFM and Dembe FM (which are on the premises) had to be asked to temporarily stop operations so that routine activities and traffic in the premises associated with their business do not interfere with Police work,” said Onek.

He said the search will go on until the letter and those other documents relating to the letter are found.

The Minister said Police have asked the management of the Daily Monitor to “cooperate so that they expedite the exercise,” adding, “Indeed, the duration of the search depends on whether or not the Daily Monitor cooperates with the Police in their investigations. To date, they have declined to cooperate.”

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