Police, Media in Waiting Game over Closed Offices

1978 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The Red Pepper managing director Richard Tusiime argues that there is no point in going to court over the closed media houses because a political problem cannot be solved in court.

The head offices of The Monitor Publications Limited and the Red Pepper remain closed nine days after members of the Uganda Police Force started a search in the premises.
 
The search entailed the closing of the premises of the two media houses. Staff from both media houses remain off duty. The standoff does not seem about to end any time soon.
 
However, Uganda Radio Network has learnt that the Uganda Police Force is using section 27 of the Police Act not to open The Monitor and Red Pepper offices. The section empowers police officers to search premises without a search warrant.
 
Police moved to close The Monitor and Red Pepper publications on May 20, and immediately declared their offices a crime scene. Police then begun the search for a document allegedly authored by Gen. David Sejusa a.k.a Tinyefuza.
 
However, nine days later police were issued a court order for the search, they have continued the search, with focus on the Monitor offices at the Namuwongo.
 
Last week both Police and managers of The Monitor held two meetings to try and cajole them to surrender the Gen. Sejusa letter but failed.
 
This week both negotiating teams are now playing the waiting game. Police have to contend with a growing number of journalists joining street demonstrations in support of the closed media houses.
 
A source at police headquarters said the Police was moving to the High court to challenge the order to vacate.
 
Last week police protested the issuance of an order to vacate by the same magistrate Rose Bareebe who had ordered a search on The Monitor premises. Sources claimed the magistrate had been forced to issue an order for police to vacate.
 
The opening of The Monitor will depend on how quickly they surrender the document, a police source revealed. The source added that since the closure, The Monitor managers had promised to surrender the document but had not yet actually done so.
 
Speaking to Uganda Radio Network, deputy police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango confirmed police would not leave The Monitor until they surrender the document in question.
 
Onyango denied police was illegally occupying The Monitor premises.
 
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Onyango added that police was also moving to court to challenge the order to vacate the paper’s premises at Namuwongo.
 
The Monitor Company Secretary, Ann Abeja, confirmed police had gone to court though they had not yet been served.
 
Asked why police remained at The Monitor, Ann Abeja said police on the ground were following orders.  When asked why The Monitor had failed to hand over the document for police to open, Abeja said the paper had nothing to surrender to police.
 
When contacted the Red Pepper Managing Director, Richard Tusiime said police had completed the search on Monday but was surprised they refused to open the offices to staff.
 
Tusiime said The Red Pepper had surrendered the press release police claimed to want on the first day but were surprised that even after, police continued with the search of the premises until yesterday.
 
Police took away four computers which they claimed were of evidential value. When asked whether The Red Pepper were into negotiations or even go to court, Tusiime said court could not solve a political problem.
 
According to him even The Monitor had attained little by going to court. He said one cannot do much when someone you are dealing with has all the powers there is in the world. Tusiime said they would wait until police leaves.