Hillary Onek, the outgoing Internal Affairs Minister has issued a statement on the reopening of the Red Pepper after an eleven day siege by the police of the premises.
Eleven days ago, police surrounded the company premises and stopped its operations. Daily Monitor and radio stations – KFM and Dembe FM – were also switched off by police after producing a search warrant in quest of a letter written by Gen David Sejusa, the Coordinator of Intelligence Services.
Gen Sejusa, in his letter, asked the Director General of Internal Security Organisation to investigate allegations that there was a plot to assassinate top army and government officials opposed to an alleged plan to enable Brig Muhoozi Keinerugaba succeed his father – Mr Museveni – as the next president.
Below is the government statement on the reopening of the Red Pepper;
1. On the 30th of May 2013, a meeting was held at the Ministry of Internal Affairs between the Government and the management of the Red Pepper Publications Ltd concerning the Police search at the premises. On the Government side, the meeting was attended by the Hon. Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Minister for Information and National Guidance and the Inspector General of Police. The Red Pepper Publications Ltd was represented by the Directors i.e. Mr. Richard Tusiime, Mr. Arinaitwe Rugyendo, Mr. Patrick Mugumya and Mr. Johnson Musinguzi.
2. During the meeting the Government side reiterated that the ongoing search at the Red Pepper Publications premises came about as a result of repeated publishing of false news, unverified stories, harmful propaganda and pornographic materials. It was made clear that in doing all this, the newspaper is in constant contravention of the laws in Uganda and most specifically the Press and Journalists’ Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Penal Code.
3. The management of the Red Pepper Publications Ltd regretted most unreservedly for the acts that led to the search and apologized for their conduct. They acknowledged that they may have aggrieved many people and families by the manner in which they were conducting business.
They made it clear that they have learnt their lesson from the time the search commenced and that the period of the ongoing search has also been a period of reflection on how they have been conducting business.
4. The management of Red Pepper Publication Ltd further brought to the attention of the meeting the shift in their policy to lay more focus on and emphasize professionalism. As evidence of this shift, a professional editor was hired to steer Red Pepper Publication Ltd towards professional reporting. They also emphasized the rebranding in their policy to become developmental oriented.
5. It was noted that during the entire period of the search, there was utmost co-operation with the Police, a gesture that was appreciated by the Government side.
6. In the meeting, the management of the Red Pepper Publications Ltd made written undertakings to the Government. Specifically, the following are the highlights;
(i) They undertook to enforce strict adherence to the code of conduct that governs journalists and in particular ensure publishing based on accuracy, fairness, balance and truth.
(ii) They undertook to take the necessary measures and precautions to ensure that stories that impact especially on national security are subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny and verification process before they run.
(iii) They undertook to ensure reporting that will not endanger national and regional security, the economy or promote sectarianism and other forms of negativity.
(iv) They undertook to promote national development by providing quality, accurate, fair and balanced information on issues of national concern.
(v) They undertook to be sensitive to and not publish stories that can potentially generate tension, ethnic hatred, cause insecurity or disturb law and order.
(vi) They undertook to be sensitive to and not publish pornographic material in their newspapers.
(vii) Further they undertook to furnish the Government with their editorial policy once they gain access to their premises.
(viii) They undertook to periodically interface with Government to ensure the undertakings and pledges are respected and implemented.
(ix) They undertook to respect and strictly comply with the Press and Journalists’ Act and other laws of Uganda
In view of the above mentioned commitments and undertakings by the management of the Red Pepper Publications Ltd to the Government; and at the request of the management, the Police has called off the search.
Eng. Hilary Onek (MP)
MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS