Uganda's Daily Monitor reopens after police closure

  • Published
Employees of the Daily Monitor newspaper with their mouths taped shut, sing slogans during a protest against the closure of their premises by the Uganda government, outside their offices in the capital, Kampala, on 20 May 2013Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Journalists had protested against the closure

Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper has reopened after being shut down by the authorities for more than a week.

The privately owned paper was closed after publishing a letter alleging that President Yoweri Museveni was grooming his son to succeed him.

The letter, purporting to be from an army general, said those who opposed this risked assassination.

A government statement said the newspaper's owners "highly regretted the story".

Two radio stations linked to the Daily Monitor, KFM and Dembe Radio, which were closed down are on air again.

The Red Pepper newspaper, which was also shut down for reporting the allegations, has been allowed to reopen too.

Mr Museveni has been in power since 1986, and elections are due in 2016.

There has been long-standing speculation that his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, a brigadier in the army, is being groomed as his successor. The government has denied having any such plans.

Search to continue

Staff at the newspaper have said the police, who had been occupying the premises in the capital, Kampala, for the last 11 days, began to open up the offices on Thursday morning.

The BBC's Catherine Byaruhanga in Kampala says there has been criticism from some journalists who say the Nation Media Group has chosen to protect their business interests over their editorial policies.

The company said it lost thousands of dollars each day its newspapers and radio stations were closed.

The Daily Monitor's Managing Director, Alex Asiimwe, told the BBC the paper had not caved in to government pressure, but rather "reason had prevailed".

"It is not good thinking for people to say if they have opened us, then we have backed down," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

When asked if the paper "regretted" the story, he said it would prompt "self-reflection".

"When we produced that story we thought we had subjected it to the best [editorial policy guidelines] that we can."

Earlier this week, police tear-gassed and beat journalists with batons as they protested outside the offices of the Daily Monitor.

The authorities said they wanted evidence of how the Daily Monitor got hold of the confidential letter, purportedly written by Gen David Sejusa, who is out of the country.

In the government statement, it said the raid on 20 May 2013 was ordered because "it was established that the director general, Internal Security Organisation, to whom the letter was addressed, as well as the officers to whom the letter was copied never received it. Evidently, it was only the Daily Monitor in possession of the letter."

President Museveni and the management of Nation Media Group, which owns the Monitor, met on Sunday 26 May, it said.

They had agreed to "only publish or air stories which are properly sourced, verified and factual", amongst other undertakings, the statement from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hilary Onek, said.

They also "undertook to be sensitive to and not publish or air stories that can generate tensions, ethnic hatred, cause insecurity or disturb law and order", it said.

Thanks to these agreements, the minister had ordered that the police remove the cordon at the Daily Monitor's office to allow "normal business as police continue with the search".

The government commended the Red Pepper publication for its co-operation during the crisis.

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