May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Uganda’s police continued a siege at the offices of the Daily Monitor, the East African nation’s biggest independent daily newspaper, for a fourth day as the authorities snubbed a court order to remove the cordon.
The publication’s offices in the capital, Kampala, have been blockaded since May 20 as security officers search for a letter alleging a plot to assassinate people opposed to President Yoweri Museveni being succeeded by his son, said Alex Asiimwe, the newspaper’s managing director.
“The siege is still going on,” he said by phone from Kampala. “We got a court order, but they have not yet vacated.” Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba didn’t answer her phone when Bloomberg called her seeking comment. On May 20, she said the siege would continue until the document is found.
Uganda has been ruled by Museveni, 69, since January 1986, when a five-year bush war ended. He has won all four elections held since 1996, though the last vote in 2011 was criticized by international observers and rejected by opposition parties who said it was marred by voter intimidation and fraud.
The police obtained a court order to search the newspaper’s offices for a letter written by General David Sejusa on April 29 and published by the Monitor on May 7. The letter alleges a plot exists to assassinate political and military leaders opposed to Museveni being succeeded by his son, Brigadier Muhoozi Kaneirugaba.
Two radio stations affiliated with the Daily Monitor, KFM and Dembe FM, have been closed since May 20. The Red Pepper, a Kampala-based tabloid newspaper, has also been shut.
The Ugandan authorities detained James Kasirivu, a radio host, on May 8 after he reported on Sejusa’s letter, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, a New York-based advocacy group.
“Ugandan authorities are trying to censor news that is crucial to the public interest,” CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said in a statement yesterday. “Authorities should immediately halt their efforts to silence Daily Monitor and Red Pepper, and they must allow these publications and related news outlets to do their jobs without further harassment.”
The government has denied there is a succession plan involving Kaneirugaba, and accuses Sejusa, who left the country after the letter was published, of trying to build his own political support base. Bloomberg News was unable to find contact information for Sejusa to seek comment.
At least 40 to 50 police officers remained at the offices of the Daily Monitor today, blocking the resumption of operations for the newspaper, which hasn’t been published for three days, Asiimwe said.
The newspaper, like KFM and Dembe FM, is owned by Nairobi-based Nation Media Group, the region’s biggest media company. In 2002, the Monitor was closed for 10 days after the state accused it of publishing stories prejudicial to security, while NTV Uganda, also a unit of Nation Media, was temporarily switched off in 2007.
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