The editor of one of Uganda’s biggest newspapers has been summoned for questioning by police after reporting findings from a BBC investigation into last year’s police killings in Kampala.
Tabu Butagira is the editor the Daily Monitor which ran the story on its front page on 31 May.
Tony Glencross, the managing director of Nation Media Group, which owns the newspaper, has also been summoned.
The two men are suspected of publishing false news, libel, and incitement.
Mr Butagira told the BBC the charges are “possibly politically motivated” and that the Daily Monitor’s lawyers would dispute them.
Mr Glencross said the two men would comply with the summons, but that he was currently self-isolating after exposure to Covid-19 and would not be able to appear before police until next week.
The BBC Africa Eye documentary Three Killings in Kampala, released on 31 May, presented evidence that Ugandan security forces fired indiscriminately at passers-by during a crackdown in the capital Kampala last November, killing and injuring unarmed people including women and children.
The Daily Monitor was not involved in the investigation. But following the evidence shown in the BBC film, the newspaper reported that on 18 November at about 14:00 local time, armed men in a police truck with the registration number UP5564 drove down Kampala Road firing live ammunition.
In the space of a minute or so, seven people were shot, at least four of them fatally.
The Ugandan government told the BBC that its security forces were responding to riots, and that the people who died on Kampala Road were killed by “stray bullets”. There is no evidence that any of the seven people shot on Kampala Road were rioting.
NBS, one of the country’s main television networks, usually broadcasts BBC Africa Eye’s investigations, but it did not show Three Killings in Kampala. However, the documentary went viral on YouTube and WhatsApp in Uganda on 31 May, prompting calls from Ugandans for accountability.
“The damning evidence [the] government needed to prosecute officers who killed Ugandans in November is here,” tweeted Raymond Mujuni, a Ugandan journalist and news anchor. “Let justice prevail.”
Another Twitter user, @drlubegaM, cited the evidence shown in the BBC film and challenged the chief political commissar of the Ugandan police, Asan Kasingye, to “produce the killers of our people”.
Jenifa Ochwo wrote: “My prayer has been that at the very least these atrocious acts would be documented for future reference. For the victims’ sake. For history. Our ruler has attempted to erase this or to rewrite history. However, now there is a record.”
The summoning of Mr Butagira and Mr Glencross highlights the increasing hostility faced by Ugandan journalists, especially those who report on opposition to President Yoweri Museveni or who criticise his government.
The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders registered nearly 40 attacks against journalists in Uganda between November 2020 and March 2021, including 21 physical attacks and eight arrests.
It places the country 125th out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index, and states that “acts of intimidation and violence against reporters are an almost daily occurrence in Uganda”.
The Daily Monitor has reported extensively on the November killings and has profiled many of the victims.
“The brand of Daily Monitor’s journalism is that which seeks to unearth the truth,” Mr Butagira said.
“This government prides [itself] on the restoration of human security. Therefore, a media house seeking accountability for civilians shot dead on Kampala streets should not be conflated as a crime in a civilised and democratic society. “