Senegal: CPJ wants charges against Ugandan journalist dropped

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Ugandan authorities to ''immediately drop all charges'' against radio journalist, Richard Mungu Jakican.

In a statement, made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday, CPJ said Ugandan prosecutors initially charged Jakican, who is the news editor of a private radio station, with malicious damage to property after police claimed he and some politicians he hosted had defaced President Museveni's re-election posters during a break in the show.

The charges were later amended to aiding and abetting a crime, an apparent reference to the damaged posters, and the journalist was released on 17 February on bail of 200,000 Ugandan shillings (approximately US$60).

According to CPJ, Police entered the studios of the privately owned station, Radio North FM, in the northern Ugandan city of Lira during the night of 13 February and arrested Jakican in the middle of his talk show.

The Police were said to have also detained seven politicians who were discussing a recent presidential debate on the show.

"Pulling a journalist and his guests away from the microphone in the middle of a radio show is shocking, crude censorship," remarked CPJ's Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney.

"All charges against Richard Mungu Jakican should be dropped immediately, and President Museveni should ensure that all voices can be heard in this campaign."

CPJ said it had documented a worsening pattern of harassment and intimidation of journalists in Uganda as presidential elections scheduled to take place 18 February approached.

''In recent days, the government has deployed military troops throughout urban centers, an act which some opposition candidates have criticized as intended to intimidate voters, according to reports.

President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa's longest-serving rulers, is seeking to extend his 30-year stay in power,'' the statement noted.

Haruna Kanaabi, executive director of the Independent Media Council, an association of journalists that campaigns for self-regulation of the media in Uganda, told CPJ he had conducted multiple interviews with colleagues of the journalist and found that there was no indication that any posters were defaced either by him or the politicians he hosted on his show.

CPJ said authorities have previously singled out radio stations, a particularly influential medium in rural Uganda, for unwelcome attention in the presidential campaign.

The press freedom watchdog pointed out that on 20 January, another station, Endigyito FM, was closed down after it hosted one of the opposition candidates, Amama Mbabazi, and it remained closed.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 18Feb2016

18 february 2016 13:58:56

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