Journalists Lose 2009 Buganda Riots Case

After a five-year court battle, two journalists who lost jobs over the September 2009 Buganda riots have lost a High court case challenging their suspension.

Radio talk show hosts Robert Kalundi Serumaga (Radio One) and Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala (Radio Sapientia) had argued that the Broadcasting Council had powers to order their suspension from their respective places of work.

Serumaga was arrested on the night of September 11, 2009 after featuring on WBS television’s “Kibazo on Friday.” talk show. He was charged with six counts of sedition at Buganda Road court. At the instigation of the BC, Serumaga was suspended from Radio One, as was Ssebaggala from Radio Sapientia, over a different show.

According to prosecution, the statements allegedly uttered by Serumaga intended to bring hatred, contempt and to excite disaffection against the person of President Museveni. In their 2009 application in the High court, the duo argued that Godfrey Mutabazi, the then BC chairman, ordered their suspension authority.

In his judgment on Monday, Justice Benjamin Kabiito said the council was justified to direct Radio One to suspend Serumaga, pending the police investigations into the allegation of incitement.

“The utterance of words that could have a seditious intent and the incitement of violence, especially if communicated on the air waves of a radio station that has the capacity to reach a large section of the population of this country, is a serious matter for national security, public order and tranquility and it would be a matter that had to be investigated in the public interest by security agencies,” he said.

He also ruled that Serumaga should have attached Radio One as a respondent, since his actual suspension could not be investigated without the participation of the radio station.

Kabiito dismissed Ssebaggala’s case on the grounds that his application for judicial review was filed after the lapse of three months, contrary to the judicature rules of 2009. The judge said Ssebaggala should have asked court to allow him file his application out of time as the law stipulates.

Source : The Observer

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