News24

Museveni libel: Uganda journalist held

2011-05-31 22:25

Kampala - A Ugandan journalist was arrested on Tuesday and charged with libelling President Yoweri Museveni after he accused him of being behind bombings that killed 79 in capital Kampala last July, his lawyer said.

The twin suicide blasts at a restaurant and a sports club on July 11 targeted Ugandans watching the world cup final on television and were claimed by Somalia's al-Shabaab group. Museveni at the time blamed "criminality and terrorism".

Timothy Kalyegira, who writes for several newspapers and magazines and runs a news website, was remanded in custody ahead of a bail hearing on Wednesday.

"He is charged with criminal libel," his lawyer, Ladislas Rwakafuzi, told Reuters. "The case is that he libelled the president of Uganda when he said he's responsible for the bombs on July 11th. This was for articles on his website."

The journalist had been questioned by police before over the stories that appeared on his website, the Ugandan Record.

Ugandan journalists and rights groups have accused the government of cracking down on them since anti-government protests over high fuel and food prices erupted in April.

Rwakafuzi said he did not expect the case to go to trial because under Ugandan law police have no jurisdiction over what is published online and that any libel needed to be printed.

"This is just to please the president," he said. "The matter must have been done in the country. Cyberspace is not part of the jurisdiction for this country unless you amend the law."

Journalists in the country have imposed a news blackout on the government in protest against what they described as rising brutality against reporters covering the demonstrations.

At least ten journalists have been attacked by security forces while covering the demonstrations and several have been shot with rubber bullets, according to media rights campaigners.