Ugandan police ordered to produce missing journalist

Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:15pm GMT

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - The Ugandan High Court has ordered the police to produce a journalist who has been held in an unknown location for 13 days, after a local media watchdog sued security chiefs over his disappearance.

Though Uganda has long enjoyed more press freedom than some African countries, rights groups and reporters have accused the government of cracking down since opposition protests erupted in the capital Kampala in April.

Augustine Okello, a radio journalist, disappeared after attending a meeting he was invited to by government security operatives, according to the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).

"We obtained a habeas corpus for Okello (late on Monday) and the security bosses are required to produce Okello in court within 24 hours," the association's Geoffrey Sebaggala told Reuters.

Rights groups in Uganda have resorted to habeas corpus petitions in the past in a bid to free people being held without charge by the security services.

A radio reporter seized in November 2010 and held for 10 days handcuffed in a dark room was released the day after a habeas corpus petition was filed, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

The police have admitted holding Okello, but he has not been charged and his lawyer and family were not told where he was being held, the group said.

The police were not immediately available for comment on the High Court order.   Continued...

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