English PEN is concerned by recent charges of defamation made against the staff of a privately-owned Ugandan paper. On 28 January 2008, five managing editors and journalists at the privately-owned Ugandan paper, the Daily Monitor, were charged with defaming the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Justice Faith Mwondha. Those charged include managing editors Joachim Buwembo and Bernard Tabaire, News Editor Robert Mukasa, Chief Parliament Reporter Emmanuel Gyezaho and Special Projects Writer Angelo Izama.
English PEN believes that the charges are a reaction to two articles published by the Daily Monitor in August 2007 entitled ‘IGG involved in salary scandal’ (Sunday Monitor, 19 August 2007) and ‘God’s warrior’ Faith Mwondha stumbles’ (26 August 2007). These articles claim that Justice Mwondha is involved in a salary scam, and accuse her of corruption and abuse of office. It is claimed that the Sunday Monitor had access to a copy of a report concerning a recent investigation into Justice Mwondha commissioned by the Ministry of Finance. The articles are said to highlight the fact that Justice Mwondha, known as ‘God’s Warrior’ for her energetic campaigning to pursue those suspected of corruption and abuse of office, has undermined her own initiative. One of the journalists charged, Emmanuel Gyezaho, wrote in the Monitor Online on 30 January 2008:
‘Here is a public servant using her office as an excuse against free speech… I personally believe Ms Mwondha is a threat to the institution of the IGG, an office that finally has the political will to fight corruption in the country.’
President Museveni appointed Justice Mwondha as the IGG on 13 January 2005. However at the time of her appointment, Justice Mwondha was a High Court resident judge for the eastern circuit based in Mbale. The report cites Article 223(4) of the Constitution which states that a person ‘shall not, while holding public office, hold any other office of emolument in the public service’. Therefore, it is concluded that it is unconstitutional for Ms Mwondha to hold two offices in the public service. A further accusation in the report concerns Justice Mwondha claiming a judge’s salary despite seeking a leave of absence from the judiciary in order to serve as IGG. It is also claimed that Justice Mwondha requested and received a higher judicial salary after the basic salaries of judges were increased from Shs 2,583,000 to Shs 4,575,000 per month in December 2006 and that this pay rise was backdated to July 2006. The government report wants Ms Mwondha to ‘refund the money she was paid as High Court judge after assuming the office of IGG’. The report confirms that only the President can remove Justice Mwondha from office and recommends the setting up of such a parliamentary tribunal.
English PEN, alongside a number of other international organisations campaigning for freedom of expression, are calling for Justice Mwondha to defend the allegations rather than using defamation charges to silence the media.
For further information:
Please send appeals:
- Calling for all charges against the five managing editors and journalists to be dropped immediately.
- Urging the Ugandan authorities to put an end to such attempts to intimidate journalists for critical reporting.
President Yoweri Museveni
Fax: 256-41-346 102
Vice President Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya
It may be more effective, however, to send the above appeals to the Ugandan representative in the United Kingdom:
HE Mrs Joan Kakima Nyakatuura Rwabyomere
58-59 Trafalgar Square
Fax: 020 7839 8925
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/ugandajournalistsandeditorsfacedefamationcharges/