The African Centre for Media Excellency (ACME), a non-profit professional organisation committed to promoting excellence in journalism and communication in Africa has condemned the continued detention of Red Pepper directors and editors.
The eight Red Pepper directors and editors who were a few weeks ago charged with sedition, offensive communication and publication of information prejudicial to national security were on Tuesday sent back to Luzira prison for another two weeks to enable the Buganda road Chief magistrate decide on their bail application.
In a statement on Thursday morning, Dr.Peter Mwesige, the ACME Executive Director said the continued shutdown of Red Pepper and its affiliate titles and radio station by government is not justifiable.
“The prolonged detention of the eight and the closure of their business is not only disproportionate to the offences preferred, but also appears to be a calculated ploy to intimidate the Red Pepper and the entire media fraternity in Uganda,” said Mwesige in a statement.
“These actions have a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to press freedom and the wider rights to freedom of expression and speech, which are guaranteed by the Constitution.”
He argues that some people may not agree with Red Pepper’s methods of work, tone and choice of content but noted that the move against the local tabloid is part of the pattern of state actions geared towards silencing freedom of speech.
“Our defence of Red Pepper is not to endorse its approach to journalism, but rather to highlight what our Supreme Court has called “the greater danger of smothering alternative views of fact or opinion”. He added, “It was the same court that said that the great benefit that society derives from the exercise of freedom of expression by citizens justifies the tolerance of that freedom “even in respect of demonstrably untrue and alarming statements rather than to suppress it”.
According to the ACME Executive Director, the state actions against Red Pepper are neither reasonable nor justifiable in free and democratic.
“We call upon Ugandan journalists, media owners, civil society actors, politicians and all those who believe in the freedom of speech to stand with Red Pepper even if some do not like how they do their journalism.” He says, ACME remains a champion of excellence in journalism, and in particular supports the exercise of high journalistic standards that uphold accuracy, verification, fairness, and context.