By our reporter
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Mike Chibita, has withdrawn charges of publication of information prejudicial to state security, libel and offensive communication, against eight journalists and directors of The Pepper Publications Ltd-Red Pepper, a local tabloid based at Namanve-Kampala.
In a session presided over by Grade One Magistrate, Samuel Kagoda, the case had come up for mention on Tuesday when the prosecutor, Mr Abdul Salam Waiswa, tendered before court a withdrawal form from the DPP indicating that the state had lost interest in the case against the accused.
The eight are ; Richard Tusiime, Johnson Musinguzi, Patrick Mugumya, Arinatiwe Rugyendo, Richard Kintu, Ben Byarabaha, Francis Tumusiime and James Mujuni.
“This is to inform court that the DPP has decided to discontinue proceeding,”the March 15th letter signed by the DPP read in part.
Subsequently, the presiding magistrate, Mr Kagoda responded by terminating the charges and discharged the accused persons.
Shortly after their discharge, their lawyer, Mr Denis Nyombi told The SpyUganda that there was no clarity in the case against their clients.
“However, we are happy that our clients have got their liberty back after the withdrawal. It was influenced by a series of engagements between the complainants and the accused persons. All parties tried to understand each other and they decided to drop the charges,” Mr Nyombi said.
The accused persons on November 27 appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrate, Mr Ereemye, denied the charges and remanded.
Prosecution contended that on November 20, 2017 at the Red Pepper offices in Namanve, Mukono District, the accused unlawfully caused publication and distribution of a newspaper headline regarding the military operations, strategies and troop location well knowing that such publication can disrupt public order and security.
In the libel charge, the prosecution stated that the accused caused publication and distribution of newspaper story that injured the reputations of President Museveni, his brother Gen Salim Saleh and the then security minister Lt. Gen Henry Tumukunde and exposed them to public hatred, contempt and ridicule.
They were also accused of wilfully and repeatedly using their computers for no legitimate purposes to disturb the peace and privacy of President Museveni, Gen Saleh and Lt Gen Tumukunde by portraying them as plotters to overthrow President Paul Kagame’s government in Rwanda.
The accused who spent almost a month in prison were granted a non-cash bail of Shs20 million on December 19, 2017.
The group on January 23, met with President Museveni who pardoned them.
During the meeting at State House Entebbe, the President told them to stop being “reckless and become more professional” in the course of their reporting, according to the statement published by Red Pepper soon after the meeting.
The directors, according to the statement pledged to the president and the nation, a more transformed and professional publication going forward.
After the meeting, police that had camped at the headquarters of the media organization for about three months, withdrew and production resumed.