President Yoweri Museveni has reportedly pardoned the eight Red Pepper journalists and directors who are currently facing charges of offensive communication, defamation and ‘disturbing the peace’ of the President.
In a statement by the Red Pepper team, they said that in a meeting held at State House last night, Museveni also promised to immediately order the police to vacate their Headquarters in Namanve.
According to the team, the ‘presidential pardon’ followed both formal and informal negotiations with government, and that in the meeting Museveni warned them against being reckless, encouraging them to instead stick to professional ethics.
Dubbed the ‘Red Pepper Eight’, the Directors and Editors include Arinaitwe Rugyendo, Richard Kintu, James Mujuni, Patrick Mugumya, Richard Tusiime, Johnson Musingunzi, Ben Byarabaha and Francis Tumusiime, who said the President told them that their publication was about to bring problems to Uganda.
The eight were arrested in November over the publication of a story which indicated that President Yoweri Museveni wanted to cause the overthrow of the Rwandan government led by President Paul Kagame and since then their offices were condoned off by police.
In December last year, the eight were granted bail by Magistrate Samuel Kagoda, and were set to return to court on February 14.
Meanwhile, given the doctrine of ‘separation of powers’, by press time it was not possible to ascertain the fate of the court case against the ‘Red Pepper Eight’ since the issue is now seems to be ‘balancing’ between the Executive and Judiciary.
This is the second time such an conundrum is surfacing in Ugandan media, after the 2013 case against the Daily Monitor, after it published contents of a controversial letter written by General David Sejusa, which led to the 14-day closure of the Daily Monitor and subsequent trial of its journalists.