Four Ugandan journalists are taking the battle to protect press freedom
to the Constitutional Court by challenging the legal status of criminal
libel laws, writes Dennis Itumbi for journalism.co.za.
The four from the Daily Monitor and Weekly Observer filed the notice through their lawyer James Nangwala challenging the legality of section 179 of the penal code act ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ after they were arrested and charged in connection with 2007 articles alleging corruption in the offices of two Inspector Generals.
It will be a second attempt to challenge the charge after a previous attempt was dismissed this month by a panel of five judges of the UgandaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Constitutional Court saying, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ"it would trivialize and demean the magnificence of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution if individual members of the public are exposed to hatred, ridicule, and contempt without any protection."
Reacting to the ruling, Robert Mukasa, a sub-editor argued "They're willing to spend taxpayer money trying to protect a corrupt government official at the altar of press freedom. It's very unfortunate."
Mukasa and the others are free on what is called a police bond, which requires them to periodically report to police or a magistrate.
Mukasa's fellow editors have been on police bond since 2006 on charges of "promoting sectarianism."
With these major press freedom issues before Uganda's Supreme Court, the decisions of the court will be under the microscope of analysis as neighbouring Kenya has already scrapped criminal libel laws.