Ugandan authorities should immediately release eight employees that include editors and managers of the national newspaper Red Pepper, who are being held in government detention without charge, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) demanded on Thursday.
"Uganda is trying to intimidate Red Pepper journalists and staff into silence with arrests and raids," said CPJ Africa program coordinator, Angela Quintal from New York.
"Reporting on politics is not a crime. Journalists in Uganda must be able to report without fear of retaliation. We call on the Ugandan authorities to immediately release the Red Pepper editors and managers."
On Tuesday Ugandan police raided the Red Pepper newspaper's office in Kampala and arrested three editors, the chief executive officer, and four senior managers. The editors and managers have not yet been charged with any crime.
Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said the newspaper had published a story that could disturb the peace.
In a press statement on the day of the arrests Kayima said "initial investigations were being carried out under" section 37 of Uganda's penal code that provides for sentences of up to seven years for people who published material "likely to disrupt public order and security."
During the raid on Red Pepper's office, police confiscated employees' phones and computers. The police also searched the homes of some of the staff.
The arrests and raid came after Red Pepper published an article on Monday, which claimed that Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni was planning to overthrow Rwanda's President Paul Kagame.
Uganda's foreign ministry accused Red Pepper of reproducing a "malicious article."
Kayima told CPJ in a telephone conversation that it was not clear when the arrested Red Pepper staff members would be charged.
The Daily Monitor reported that the arrested are editors Ben Byarabaha, Richard Kintu, and Tumusiime Francis Tinywana. Authorities are also holding Red Pepper's chief executive officer, Richard Tusiime, alongside senior managers Patrick Mugumya, Arinaitwe Rugyendo, James Mujuni, and Johnson Musinguzi Byarabaha.
Kayima said police are holding the editors and managers at the Nalufenya Detention Center in Jinja, a town in eastern Uganda.
- African News Agency (ANA)