Uganda’s government ordered police on Thursday to allow journalists back into the main independent newspaper after a 10-day blockade that has sparked widespread criticism, but another paper remains shut.
Police, who shut down The Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers on May 20 after they reported arguments among army generals whether the President’s son is to succeed him, had blocked journalists from publishing while they conducted a search for confidential leaked documents they had quoted.
“The police has called off the cordon of the Monitor premises, so that they resume their normal business as police continue with the search,” Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek told reporters, speaking alongside police chief Kale Kayihura.
However, to allow the paper to reopen, Monitor officials have agreed to “tighten their internal editorial” processes, including ensuring stories “that impact especially on national security are subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny and verification process before they run,” Mr. Onek added.
Observers have warned the police closures — financially crippling to the papers — would lead to great self-censorship in the future.
The Monitor has also agreed not to publish stories that could “generate tensions, ethnic hatred, cause insecurity or disturb law and order”, Mr. Onek added.
The closures left only one major operating newspaper, the government-owned New Vision . Two radio stations in the Monitor offices will also be allowed to resume operation, but Red Pepper remains shuttered for now.
“We shall be meeting the Red Pepper leadership... if they agree that they operate within the law, we have no problem allowing them to re-open,” Mr. Onek said.
The closures came after the newspapers in early May printed a leaked confidential memo by a senior general, David Sejusa Tinyefuza, alleging that President Yoweri Museveni was grooming his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed him. Gen. Tinyefuza said there were plots to assassinate those opposed to the plan, a report criticised by other generals.
Mr. Muhoozi, a brigadier who now commands Uganda’s special forces, has recently enjoyed rapid promotion through the ranks, although Mr. Museveni has made no mention of plans for him to succeed. — AFP