Lawyers representing the five directors and three editors of Red Pepper Publications have protested against an order allowing continued siege of the company offices in Namanve by police officers.
For almost two months, the company’s premises have been cordoned off by police as a crime scene.
In a December 28, 21017 ex parte application, the state through Henry Peter Walulya, an investigating officer in the matter applied for an order allowing police time to keep at the Red Pepper offices as investigations are still ongoing.
“We pray for extension of time for analyzing the seized electronic equipment accessories and documents as part of investigations for the purpose of obtaining evidence relating to publication of information prejudice to security of the government of Uganda,” says the application by the state in part.
On the same day, Buganda Road Chief Magistrate James Eremye Mawanda granted the order as applied for by the state allowing detectives time within which to carryout investigations on the seized equipment.
“The order is valid for a period of one month from the date of issue,”Eremye said.
However, Denis Nyombi, one of the lawyers for the accused said it was wrong for court to grant the orders after an ex parte application in which they were not represented.
An ex parte application is one where only one side is represented in court.
Nyombi said it was a violation of their rights to a fair hearing.
“It was a violation of article 28 of the constitution which emphasizes fair hearing,”Nyombi said.
He argued that granting such orders has rendered other workers of the Red Pepper Publication jobless since their workplace is cordoned off by police as a crime of scene.
“They are accused of just one headline story published on November 20,2017 but such an order puts the entire company and the various Red Pepper sister publications on trial plus the workers,”Nyombi argued.
In response, the state prosecutor Abdul Salaam Waiswa said that he could not respond to the submission of the defence lawyer because the trial magistrate was not in court at the time.
Magistrate Samuel Kagoda who had sat in for James Mawanda Eremye however adjourned the case to February 14.
The five directors and three editors of Red Pepper Publications were charged with offensive communication, sedition and publication of information prejudicial to national security.
These include; Johnson Musinguzi (director finance), Ben Byarabaha (senior editor)Arinaitwe Rugyendo (chief marketing officer), Richard Kintu (deputy news editor), James Mujuni (journalist), Patrick Mugumya (director operations),Francis Tumusiime (special project editor) an Richard Tusiime (managing director) .
It is alleged that the group through the Red Pepper newspaper published a story titled ‘Museveni plans to overthrow Kagame’, a story that ridiculed president Museveni and also disturbed his peace.