Ugandan journalists Norman Tumuhimbise and Faridah Bikobere were released after being accused of “cyber bullying” the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni.
Their release on Monday, 21 March follows their arrest on 12 days prior. The journalists form part of a larger group of seven other journalists who work for online platform Alternative Digitalk TV. They are accused of being in violation of the Computer Misuse Act of 201. Punishment for this includes a one-year prison sentence or a fine.
Tumuhimbise is believed to be the leader of what has been described as “a local pressure group” called The Alternative Movement. He is due to release a book on Museveni at the end of the month.
According to AFP, the court granted both him and Bikobere a cash bail of UGX500 000 (about $138).
“They will continue appearing before the same court for the hearing of the case,” said Eron Kiiza, one of their counsels.
‘Uganda harrassing journalists’
Meanwhile, the International Press Institute (IPI) demands that charges against Tumuhimbise and Bikobere be dropped immediately, as it believes that Uganda is harassing its journalists.
Security personnel raided the offices of the independent internet television station in Kampala, arresting nine staff members, according to sources. Tumuhimbise and Bikobere were detained, the IPI said via a statement.
“It is not clear which specific statements by the journalists have been identified by the criminal complaint. Tumuhimbise is due to publish a book that is critical of President Museveni on 30 March, according to reports.
“His lawyer told the press that the staff of Alternative Digitalk TV were rounded up, put into a van, and their telephones, laptops, recorders and cameras were confiscated.
“Ugandan authorities should swiftly release Norman Tumuhimbise and Faridah Bikobere and drop all charges against them,” IPI deputy director Scott Griffen said.
“This case underscores the threat to press freedom and free expression posed by vague laws on causing offence. Ugandan journalists must be free to criticise those in positions of power.”