Hoima, 26th/September/2012; A Spice FM journalist Fred Byenkya aka Fredo is under police harassment in Hoima for airing a recorded sound-byte of a critical member of parliament.
Spice FM is a private media house owned Edgar Agaba former Executive Director of Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA) based in mid-western region of Uganda.
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that on 25th/August/2012 during a political talk show called ‘Your Parliament’ Byenkya aired a sound-byte of the Buyaga West Member of Parliament Barnabas Tinkasimire which reportedly accused President Yoweri Museveni of failing to unite the ruling NRM party to which he presides over as chairperson and accused government of marginalizing the Bunyoro sub-region in development program, among others. Hon. Tinkasimire is a member of the ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM).
HRNJ-Uganda has discovered that since the date the alleged sound byte was aired, the moderator of the show Byenkya has been interrogated four times by different police officers at Hoima but no charges have been brought against him.
“We invited Hon. Tinkasimire to the talk-show, but since he was too busy in Kampala, we went to Kampala and conducted an interview with him, when I played the sound, security officers from Hoima district police rang me, later came over to the radio and asked for recording. After I was summoned to Hoima police station and made me record a 3-page statement. They wanted me to clarify on what the MP had said, and questioned why I had chosen to host Tinkasimire.” He told HRNJ-Uganda.
The detectives allegedly told him that they suspected that the show may have caused hatred against the person of the president.
When contacted by HRNJ-Uganda about the progress of the police file, the District Police Commander Augustine Kasangaki declined to comment about the matter. He said since the journalist had not been given a police bond, there was nothing for him to say about the matter, “Was he given a police bond? There is nothing I can tell you if he wasn’t given a police bond.” He said before hanging up.
The officer in charge of crime at Hoima police station Nimanya Godson also declined to give details about the file, “I am sorry; I cannot devolve any information to you, since I don’t know you myself. Someone can use this information for other purposes, so am sorry I can’t divulge it to you” he told HRNJ-Uganda.
“Security apparatus in the countryside continue to narrow space for media practitioners through intimidating, harassing and kidnapping journalists. Such actions have got a chilling effect on the operations of the media in the countryside and at the end the media will promote self-censorship” HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala said.
He added that police need to learn from other countries where police investigations are carried out before arresting a suspect.
HRNJ-Uganda condemns in the strongest terms possible the manner under which the police in Hoima is trying misuse its powers to intimidate media practitioners to stop availing platforms to those with divergent views to the government.
HRNJ-Uganda calls upon the Uganda Human Rights Commission to intervene in order to guarantee space for media practitioners in the countryside.