The International Press Institute (IPI) condemns the arrest of Ugandan journalist Timothy Kalyegira. He was detained on 31 May and charged with criminal libel after accusing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of being responsible for the bombings in the capital Kampala in July 2010, Reuters reported.
The two blasts – which hit a restaurant and a sports club on 11 July, and killed nearly 80 people – were claimed by Somalia’s al-Shabab group. Museveni at the time suggested that “criminality and terrorism” were the main causes, Reuters noted.
Kalyegira, who contributes to several newspapers and runs a news website, was reportedly taken into custody before a bail hearing on 1 June. On 2 June, he was released on bail, but still faces criminal proceedings. The journalist has allegedly also been questioned by the police about stories he published on his webpage.
“He is charged with criminal libel,” Reuters quoted the reporter’s lawyer as saying. “The case is that he libelled the president of Uganda when he said he’s responsible for the bombs on 11 July. This was for articles on his website.”
Attacks on journalists are reported to be a common occurrence since anti-government protests over high food and fuel prices started in the country this April. At least ten journalists have reportedly been assaulted by security forces while covering the demonstrations.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: “We urge the Ugandan authorities to cease detaining journalists because of their profession. Journalists should never be prosecuted under criminal libel laws. Instead, where professional non-statutory bodies are unable to resolve an alleged libel complaint, the civil courts should handle the matter.”