The Kampala Magistrates Court yesterday remanded a journalist with an online publication (www.Ugandarecord.co.ug) over a story he published, linking the government to the July 11 Kampala bomb blasts that killed 78 people. Mr Timothy Kalyegira, yesterday appeared before City Hall Court and was charged with criminal libel.
The presiding Grade Two Magistrate, Mr James Wambeya, did not allow Mr Kalyegira to plead to the charges and rejected his bail application on grounds that the court did not have the jurisdiction. "This court has no proper jurisdiction to entertain plea or bail. You are therefore remanded until June 6," Mr Wambeya ruled.
However, in a twist of events, one of Mr Kalyegira's lawyers, Mr Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, convinced the magistrate to issue a production warrant to have the journalist appear in court today for purposes of plea taking and bail application.
According to the charge sheet, the journalist is alleged to have unlawfully published a defamatory story in the Uganda Record, an online publication, with intentions of defaming President Museveni.
He allegedly committed the offence between July 12 and 16 last year.
Mr Kalyegira, who spoke to this paper shortly after being charged, said his troubles began last week when he went to Kira Road Police Station, requesting for the release of his passport which was in their custody.
Mr Kalyegira said he wanted to travel to South Africa to attend the Google conference scheduled for next week.
The police asked him to pick it yesterday but when he showed up, his police bond was cancelled and he was taken to court. Mr Rwakafuuzi explained that the charges against his client do not stand because criminal libel is the publication of some prohibited matter in a permanent form but for the case of Mr Kalyegira, the alleged publication was done via cyberspace and no one knows where he was geographically.
On July 11, at least 78 revellers were killed in twin bomb blasts at Kyandondo Rugby Club at Lugogo and the Ethiopian Village Restaurant at Kabalagala during the screening of the final World Cup football match between Spain and Netherlands.
Al-Shabab militants have since claimed responsibility for the attack.
The offence of criminal libel is being challenged in the Supreme Court on grounds that it is inconsistent with the Constitution. This means that no case of criminal libel can proceed until the Supreme Court pronounces itself on its constitutionality.