Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere


Just an ordinary bloke.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's the war of attrition

SECOND FLOOR - As it turned out, the interrogation was more farce than fierce. We presented ourselves at 10am, as requested, and were led to the Media Offences Department of the Uganda Police Force. We do not have a Child Sacrifice Department but we have one for media offences, real and imagined. Classic Uganda.

After a while, Charles Kataratambi, the head of the MOD turned up. A stocky fella with a law degree and a sharp brain, Charlie, as many of his friends call him, could have made a smart lawyer or more but he has to 'serve' and his service is to keep an eye on the media.

After a few pleasantries, the interrogation started with Angelo, one of the two authors of the story. Grace, the other author, and I, were asked to step outside and wait in the room next door. Considering that the rooms are separated by thin plywood, this was the equivalent of listening in, rather that watching proceedings.The main thrust of the interrogation, as expected, was to try and extract the source of the story.

It would have been easier to squeeze water out of a rock. An hour later, Grace was next and the routine was repeated with no more success until it was my turn. Charlie and his team of co-inquisitors, including a cameraman who captured proceedings on a small camcorder (so that we could not claim to have been tortured, according to Charlie) wanted to know who had edited the story. I told them I did not edit the story but I was the editor of the paper. Two different things that took a while to sink in before Charlie declared; we have the wrong man. We need to person who edited the story.

Three weeks later, I am a free man but both Grace and Angelo are out on police bond which has been renewed several times. (The editor of the piece was never summoned, after all). The police say they need more time to find evidence to take the duo to court and charge them with endangering national security, abetting the enemy or same such. The idea that the LRA rebels in their DR Congo hideouts are waiting for copies of the Monitor to be delivered to them every morning so as to plan their military formations in ludicrous to the extreme. And yet, as we head closer to the magic year of 2011, there is evidence that this is just the start of a different war against the media; the war of attrition.

It does not matter whether there is evidence or not to justify prosecution; the plan is to keep summoning journalists and make them jump through hoops until they are physically, mentally, emotionally and financially worn out (the lawyer's meter keeps running!). it is a nuisance and an irritation but it could be worse. Ask journalists in Somalia, Iraq, Philipines or Sri Lanka.

So we keep soldiering on, keep packing overnight bags every Friday just in case you are arrested and taken to court after the banks close (so they can't take your bail money) and have to spend the weekend in the chiller. But we shall keep speaking truth to power and keep saying things that officialdom does not want to hear. After all, we are not here to please; if we were, we would have been dressed up as clowns.


Blogger the antipop said...

"After a few pleasantries, the interrogation started with..."

If ever there was an oxymoron, that would be it.

anyway, that is the price you pay for the freedoms others will enjoy years from today. Atta boy!

2:07 pm  
Blogger Bamong said...

Rest assured that you wont see the inside of Luzira for this case. That department is yet to successfully prosecute a case since its inception.

7:24 am  
Blogger wesonga said...

There is one thing bothering me. That is, why does the government harass Daily Monitor journalists more than it does The Red Pepper? Both papers, occasionally, carry copy that displeases government officials.

Remember when President Yoweri Museveni singled out Daily Monitor, Red Pepper, and The Weekly Observer/Kevin Ogen Aliro (Rest in Peace) for messing with national security?

I should ask government mandarins for an answer. But I will not. This is because I do not want. And I do not want because I do not want.

And; hypothetically, what if the government has moles at Daily Monitor? These can simple type the kind of stories that will either attract the wrath of the government- by raiding the premises to confiscate computers, notes books and to hold workers hostage for a few hours - or its ‘magnanimity’ – by it not raiding the paper’s premises.

Government would then tell some Western big-brothers that, ‘See, the Daily Monitor writes ill about us and gets away with it’.

And, Katarambi’s idea of capturing your interrogation on tape was not bad. But the reasoning was shaky. Why, because one can be tortured before the film/DVD rolls. Or the tape/DVD can be stopped to allow time for torture. Had some Iraqi not captured Saddam Hussein being tormented, we would have missed that part. In short, camcorders have ‘stop’ and ‘pause’ buttons which can be pressed whenever the cameraman chooses.

Lastly, a mobile phone with E-mail capabilities and of course, in areas of network or satellite coverage explains how rebels can use material from the Monitor to plan their (rebels) military formations’. The rebels just have to follow the link www.monitor.co.ug at midnight every night. This means they do not need hard copies delivered every morning to Garamba Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo.

I do not imply that mean Joseph Kony or the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels stay awake to get the latest news from the Monitor. It would be foolish of them to make military plans basing on Daily Monitor reports. Their survival for the last 22 years means they simply need a leak or leaks in the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF).

Just remember; whatever the Daily/Saturday/Sunday Monitor published pleases a section of the public. Not that those writers are clowns. Just academic theory that people will seek out media content that carries information that either reinforces their thinking or the content is appetizing.

1:57 pm  
Blogger AtomicLaura said...

I saw the recent Parade magazine profile of you and found your blog. I wish you the best in your fight for a free press.
I will enjoy your blogs.
(After working in journalism and then teaching it, I have to live vicariously!)

6:34 pm  

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