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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Ugandan paper issues apology
Ugandan army tank
The Ugandan army was angered by The Monitor's story
In its first edition for a week, Uganda's leading independent newspaper, The Monitor, has apologised for running a story which angered the army but has refused to retract it.

The government only agreed to lift the blockade on The Monitor's offices if it ran the apology.


The police had gone to investigate the dangerous lies they were telling

President Yoweri Museveni
But the paper's managers argued that admitting the story was false would prejudice the case of three journalists, charged with publishing false news and publishing information prejudicial to national security and likely to assist the enemy in its operation.

The paper was closed down last Friday after publishing a story, claiming that an army helicopter had been shot down by rebels.

In an editorial in its "Come-back issue", the Monitor said that police conduct had been "impeccable" throughout the six-day closure.

Computers confiscated

Press freedom body Reporters without Borders and United States-based Human Rights Watch have condemned the Ugandan Government's closure of The Monitor, as a violation of press freedom.

President Yoweri Museveni dismissed these accusations and told BBC Network Africa that he had fought for press freedom.

But he said that the freedom had been abused and "the police had gone to investigate the dangerous lies they were telling."

President Yoweri Museveni
President Museveni vows to defeat the rebels during the dry season

Police confiscated computers, diskettes, mobile phones and files after raiding The Monitor.

The BBC's reporter in Kampala says the helicopter story is the latest in a number of articles about the conduct of the war against Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the north of the country that have angered the army.

Last May, the Ugandan army launched an offensive in co-operation with the Sudanese Government which, until recently, backed the LRA.

But this has only pushed the LRA back into Uganda, where it has increased its attacks.

Tall grass

The LRA has been conducting a campaign of violence in northern Uganda since 1987 to overthrow Mr Museveni's government.

Monitor cartoonist The Lizard observes that if the row between the paper and the government can be resolved through negotiation, why not use talks to end the LRA rebellion, too?

Mr Museveni told BBC Network Africa that he was personally opposed to negotiating with the LRA but he had been persuaded to pursue dialogue by bishops.

However, he said that the army would defeat them during the dry season, when the rebels could no longer hide in tall grass.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Yoweri Museveni on BBC Network Africa
"I am the one who fought for press freedom"

Key stories

Background
See also:

17 Oct 02 | Africa
11 Oct 02 | Africa
16 Sep 02 | Africa
16 Sep 02 | Africa
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